Better research on nurse prescribing needed

More randomised controlled trials are needed to produced firm conclusions about the effects of nurse prescribing on medication and patient outcomes, according to a systematic review of research on the effects of nurse prescribing compared with doctor prescribing. The effects of nurse prescribing do seem positive, and nurses appear to prescribe in a similar way to physicians; however, all but five of the 35 studies included in the review had a high risk of bias.

A previous review from 2008 covered the literature to 2008, so this systematic review updated it by including everything up to January 2012. Systematic reviews produce more reliable findings by using explicit, reproducible methods.

Although clinical parameters and perceived quality of care were the same or better for treatment by nurses, and nurses and doctors prescribed comparable types and doses of medicines, the authors stress that conclusions must remain tentative.

Gielen SC et al. The effects of nurse prescribing: A systematic review. Int J Nurs Stud 2013; December (epub ahead of print).