The RCN and the European Federation of Nurses Associations (EFN) have highlighted the contribution that primary care nurses can make to tackle antibiotic resistance.
Rose Gallagher, RCN advisor for infection prevention and control, said: 'Practice and community nurses are key to educating their patients in understanding how antibiotics work. They can educate them on the misconceptions relating to antibiotics, such as the fact that they do not work on viral infections, and to help patients feel confident to self-care.
'It would be reasonable for a practice nurse to consult their GP for a second opinion if faced with a patient who believes that antibiotics are the only way to treat an illness.'
'District nurses have a similar role as they see their patients more often and can reinforce these messages to the patient and their family about when antibiotics are the most appropriate treatment,' she added.
The RCN and the EFN are urging all European governments and health agencies to help tackle antibiotic resistance. The organisations want to see the contribution of nurses recognised with more investment in research to support this.
Paul de Raeve, general secretary of the EFN, said: 'Governments and health service organisations across the whole of Europe must implement multi-professional strategies to reduce the demands of antibiotics and enhance the effectiveness of prescribed medicines. Infection control nurses and nurse prescribers are uniquely placed to inform and empower citizens for an appropriate use of antibiotics.'
The World Economic Forum has identified antibiotic resistance as one of the greatest risks to human health. Some bacteria, such as Neisseria gonorrhoeae that causes gonorrhoea, are already largely resistant to antibiotics.
European Antibiotic Awareness Day is an annual initiative, on 18 November, aimed at raising the awareness of antimicrobial resistance. This year healthcare professionals are invited to sign up to be an Antibiotic Guardian by pledging one thing they will do to challenge antibiotic resistance.