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New regulation allows registered nurses to prescribe medicines

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Professor Carryer Professor Carryer Professor Carryer Professor Carryer

In a first for New Zealand, registered nurses will be able to prescribe medicines for a wide range of conditions under the Medicines (Designated Prescriber - Registered Nurses) Regulations 2016.

The new regulation, which comes into effect on Tuesday, allows registered nurses working in primary care and specialist teams to prescribe for their patients. They must hold a postgraduate diploma with a focus on long-term and common presenting conditions in primary care settings.

Massey University’s Professor of Nursing Jenny Carryer welcomes the regulation change, as it allows the nursing workforce to do more, and increases people’s access to care.

"The decision to go ahead with registered nurse prescribing is evidence-based. It follows a diabetes nurse prescribing pilot first introduced in 2011. A review showed high levels of patient safety, satisfaction and approval," Professor Carryer says.

The postgraduate diploma (four university papers) includes a practicum and assessment for suitability with an authorised prescriber, either a Nurse Practitioner or a General Practioner.

Nurses will also need to have worked for three years in the area where they want to prescribe.
Conditions for which registered nurses will be able to prescribe include diabetes, hypertension, respiratory diseases, eye health, anxiety, depression, heart failure, gout, palliative care, contraception, common skin conditions and infections.

Professor Carryer says the qualification is the first half of the Master of Nursing degree required to become a nurse practitioner. "Nurses who pass will become ‘designated prescribers’, which means they will be able to prescribe from a specified range of medicines. This is in contrast to Nurse Practitioners who can prescribe from the full range of possible medications," she says.

While Professor Carryer believes the approval is positive, she says nurses do not always see medicalised developments in nursing as an achievement. "This change is a responsibility that needs to be shouldered, and carries a huge education commitment.
Health Workforce New Zealand funding of nursing education is spread thin, and analysis is needed to find out whether the funding is meeting the new training needs."

When Professor Carryer and School of Nursing senior lecturer Dr Jill Wilkinson conducted the review of the pilot project, they found patients reported significant satisfaction with the care they received from prescribing registered nurses. "Patients said they had received such clear and accessible information about their diabetes that they felt much more able to self-manage their condition effectively," says Professor Carryer.

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