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Rural and metropolitan South Australian mental health workers’ views about nurse prescribing: A thematic analysis

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Almost one third of the South Australian population reside in regional locations, which are serviced by just 8% of the State's total psychiatrist workforce. Consequently, access to psychotropic medications in regional South Australia (SA) can be challenging. Granting prescribing rights to mental health nurses (MHNs) located in regional settings presents an opportunity to increase consumer access to psychotropic medications. The aim of the study was to understand the perspectives of mental health workers (MHWs) practising in regional and metropolitan settings towards MHN prescribing. The study adopted a qualitative approach. Seventeen MHWs participated in three focus groups, including two in regional SA and one in a metropolitan site within the State of SA. Participants reported difficulties in accessing medicines in regional areas. The regional focus groups indicated that MHN prescribing may help to release psychiatrists’ time and provide quicker assessment and diagnosis. By contrast, the metropolitan focus group expressed reservations about MHN prescribing. Participants indicated that suitable governance structures supported by appropriate education programmes were a necessary prerequisite for MHN prescribing of psychotropic medications. MHN prescribing may help to mitigate the impact of psychiatrist shortages in regional South Australia and possibly in other areas of the world where recruitment is a challenge. The provision of adequate education and the establishment of a suitable governance and support framework are considered necessary steps to progress MHN prescribing.
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Keywords: accessing psychotropic medication; mental health nurse; nurse prescribing; perspectives; rural practice; thematic analysis

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2019

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