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Keywords:

  • education;
  • medication administration;
  • medication competence;
  • medication skills;
  • nursing

Aims and objectives.  The aim of this integrative literature review was to describe registered nurses’ medication competence. The objectives of the literature review were to chart the need for future studies and use the results for instrument development.

Background.  Nurses play a vital role in different phases of a patient’s medication process and thus need adequate competence to fulfil their role. Research on nurses’ level of medication competence in different competency areas has been published. However, previous studies have lacked a comprehensive or integrated definition or description of medication competence in nursing.

Design.  Integrative literature review.

Methods.  The integrative literature review followed five stages: (1) problem identification, (2) literature search, (3) data evaluation, (4) data analysis and (5) presentation. Eligible articles were identified via systematic literature search of research and evidence-based – databases. Twenty-one studies met the selection criteria.

Results.  Eleven competency areas that constitute nurses’ medication competence were identified: (1) anatomy and physiology, (2) pharmacology, (3) communication, (4) interdisciplinary collaboration, (5) information seeking, (6) mathematical and medication calculation, (7) medication administration, (8) medication education, (9) assessment and evaluation, (10) documentation and (11) promoting medication safety as part of patient safety. The analysis revealed three major categories which integrate these competency areas: (1) decision making competence, (2) theoretical competence and (3) practical competence.

Conclusions.  Medication competence requires a solid knowledge base and the ability to apply that knowledge in real-life situations during often complex and dynamic patient medication processes. Decision making competence was found to be an important and integral part of a nurses’ theoretical and practical competence. These main competence categories integrated all of the 11 competency areas identified in this review.

Relevance to clinical practice.  It is important to determine registered nurses’ medication competence in the context of developing nursing education and migration of the nursing workforce. This literature review contributes an integrated perspective on nurses’ medication competence and in doing so has clinical relevance for curriculum development and to future research in this area.