Nurse practitioners based in community pharmacies have great potential to ease the burden in primary care, research by Curtin University and Griffith University has found.
The independently funded research, undertaken by Associate Professor Lynne Emmerton, of Curtin’s School of Pharmacy, and Sara McMillan, of Griffith’s School of Pharmacy, explored the roles of nurse practitioners who are based in community pharmacies in Western Australia.
Community pharmacies are a relatively new site for nurse practitioner clinics, which have traditionally operated in hospitals and, more recently, local general practitioner (GP) clinics.
Nurse practitioners have at least three years’ post-university nursing experience and a Master (Nurse Practitioner) degree. They can perform some roles of a GP, including ordering blood tests and x-rays and writing prescriptions for a wide range of medicines. They can also manage immunisations, wound dressings and suture and staple removals.
The services are covered by Medicare and many are bulk billed.
The researchers interviewed nurse practitioners, pharmacists, pharmacy staff operating as a Revive Clinic, and users of the service, involving city and rural clinics. Revive Clinics are currently the only pharmacy-based clinics supplying nurse practitioner services in Australia.
Associate Professor Emmerton said interviews with people who had consulted an ‘in-store’ nurse practitioner revealed they appreciated the convenience of a ‘walk-in’ service located at their local pharmacy.
“This is likely to be particularly welcomed by parents of sick children, people working long hours and those who need repeats of prescriptions for medicines such as the contraceptive pill,” Associate Professor Emmerton said.
The study identified roles performed by pharmacists, such as giving advice about medicines, recommending medicines for conditions such as coughs and colds and taking blood pressure, were not impacted by the nurse practitioner.
In fact, having another health professional in the pharmacy for a second opinion worked both ways. Pharmacists were able to ask the nurse practitioner to perform some tests and observations, while the nurse practitioner could ask the pharmacist for specific medicine-related information and to check a person’s prescription record in the dispensary computer.
Lecturer Sara McMillan explained that nurse practitioners offered another convenient healthcare option to people.
“People now have a choice whether they consult their regular doctor or a pharmacy-based nurse practitioner,” Ms McMillan said.
“Importantly, the nurse practitioners are trained to recognise when they are outside their limits of expertise, and when necessary, can easily refer people to their regular doctor or write a referral to a specialist.”
The research centred on the WA-based Revive Clinic franchise, which supplies nurse practitioners to 10 pharmacies in Western Australia and one pharmacy in NSW.
Founder and director of Revive Clinic, Louise Stewart, said the clinics had been established in collaboration with general practitioners, pharmacists and allied health services to alleviate the pressure on general practice and hospital emergency rooms.
“Many regional areas and even some metropolitan areas do not have access to a GP, so there is a real need to increase access to timely and affordable healthcare in these communities. This is what Revive Clinic hopes to achieve,” Ms Stewart said.
Notes to editor:
- The Revive Group supply trained nurse practitioners to pharmacies who have bought a Revive Clinic franchise. The nurse practitioner provides an independent service from a private consultation room within the pharmacy.
- The nurse practitioners, by law, use Revive Clinic clinical guidelines or protocols approved at State level to guide their clinical decision making. Clinical governance is maintained by the Revive Group’s medical committee.
Lynne Emmerton, Associate Professor, Pharmaceutical Practice, School of Pharmacy
Tel: 08 9266 7352, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sara McMillan. Lecturer, Pharmacy Practice, School of Pharmacy, Griffith University
Tel: 07 5552 7266, Email: email@example.com
Louise Stewart, CEO, Revive Clinic
Tel: 0409 105 812, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kristy Jones, Public Relations, Curtin University
Tel: 08 9266 9085, Mobile: 0402 517 300, Email: email@example.com