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Irish nurse prescriber numbers fall short

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Nurses and midwives have been allowed to prescribe Nurses and midwives have been allowed to prescribe in Ireland since 2007

The Irish Health Service Executive (HSE) has paid for more nurses and midwives to train as prescribers than those who currently prescribe in practice.

Over 1200 nurses and midwives have completed the prescribing qualification, but HSE figures show that only 894 of these are registered as prescribers. This equates to roughly one in 67 nurses in the country.

‘We know that nurse prescribers can have a significant impact on patient care and often these timely interventions allow for a decrease in hospital readmission,’ said Clare MacGabhann, national lead and director of Nursing and Midwifery (Prescribing) at the HSE. ‘It has also led to increased compliance with medications prescribed as nurses know their patients and are able to educate them.’

The introduction of nurse prescribers in Ireland has been found to improve patient care in a number of different settings. Examples used by the HSE include a warfarin clinic in Louth, which has been transformed by the introduction of nurse prescribers. The clinic’s patients expressed a 99% satisfaction rating with the service in 2014 compared with an 81% dissatisfaction rate the previous year. The introduction of midwives who can prescribe has also reportedly led to women experiencing shorter stays in hospital after a birth.

‘Before midwives were empowered to prescribe, it would have been necessary to call a doctor away from clinics and ward rounds,’ added Ms MacGabhann. ‘This was very much dependent on their availability and workload. If the midwife prescriber was not available, the mother and baby would have to remain in hospital, with the baby to undergo screening and observation for up to 48 hours. The advantages for the mother and baby and the hospital of this new approach are significant.’

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