• advanced nurse practitioners;
  • information needs;
  • medications;
  • professional boundaries;
  • perception;
  • questionnaire

Aims and objectives.  The aim of our study was to investigate the perceptions of pharmaceutical sales representatives by nurse prescribers.

Background.  Nurses with advanced training have earned prescriptive authority in North America, Europe and other parts of the world. These nurses are being increasingly targeted by pharmaceutical sales representatives. There is a paucity of data regarding nurses’ perceptions of pharmaceutical sales representatives.

Design.  Survey.

Methods.  A convenience sample of nurse prescribers was recruited to complete an Internet questionnaire about their interactions with and perceptions of sales representatives. The data were collected over one month ending in January 2007. There were 39 survey items ranging from perception-based items assessed by Likert-type scale to open-ended queries. Descriptive statistics were used to summarise the results.

Results.  Ninety-two nurses completed this survey, which demonstrated good internal consistency yielding a Cronbach’s alpha coefficient of 0·83. Positive perceptions of pharmaceutical representatives included: explaining their products clearly (80·4%) and knowledge about their medications (88·0%). Negative aspects included: lack of consideration of nurses’ time (50%) and failure to equally discuss medication strengths and weaknesses (21·8%). Perhaps the most alarming finding was that 35·9% of respondents indicated that sales representatives suggested paybacks for promoting their drugs.

Conclusions.  Nurses with prescriptive authority generally perceive interactions with pharmaceutical sales representatives as positive. However, they also have concerns about the nature and methods of some of their activities. Nations that have nurses with prescribing authority can benefit from observing both the mis-steps and the positive inroads that have already been made by the profession in the USA and other countries.

Relevance to clinical practice.  Appropriate use of pharmaceutical sales representatives’ services may enhance the ability of nurse prescribers to deliver optimal nursing care. Methods, such as counter-detailing may be necessary to maintain an evidence-based approach as the controlling factor.