Independent nurse prescribers are “more cautious” than doctors and most do not initiate treatments without first seeking medical advice, despite their qualifications, suggests a UK study.
It found that although nurses tended to have greater holistic awareness of patients, they were also more “risk aware”.
Nurse prescribers were given full access to the British National Formulary in 2006, putting them on a par with doctors. At present, around 3% of nurses are qualified to prescribe independently.
The study, published in full in this week’s Nursing Times, compared the habits and decisions of nurse prescribers at a mental health provider with those of doctors.
Researchers from South Staffordshire and Shropshire Healthcare Foundation Trust interviewed 14 nurse prescribers and nine of their medical mentors.
They found nurses perceived independent prescribing as a “risky activity”, and displayed a reluctance to make independent prescribing decisions “even within their specialist fields”.
However, when they did prescribe, nurses “generally felt” they involved patient more in decision-making and concordance than doctors did, and that they were better at liaising with other services about medication.
The study authors said: “Greater strategic focus and vision are needed so nurse prescribing can develop to meet patients’ needs and lead to a more equitable sharing of prescribing responsibilities with doctors.”
The new study reflects previous research by Reading University, which found that some independent prescribers still preferred supplementary prescribing to help develop their skills and confidence.
The earlier study of 1,400 independent nurse prescribers – conducted at the end of 2006 – found that more than 40% were still using supplementary prescribing.