Practice makes perfect: a systematic review of the expertise development of pharmacist and nurse independent prescribers in the United Kingdom

Aseel Abuzour, Penny Lewis, Mary Tully

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Background Prescribing is a complex and error-prone task that demands expertise. McLellan et al’s [1] theory of expertise development model (“the model”), developed to assess medical literature on prescribing by medical students, proposes that in order to develop, individuals should deliberately engage their knowledge, skills and attitudes within a social context. Its applicability to independent prescribers (IP) is unknown.

Aim A systematic review was conducted to explore whether the model is applicable to non-medical independent prescribing and to assess the factors underpinning expertise development reported in the literature.

Method Six electronic databases (EMBASE, Medline, AMED, CINAHL, IPA and PsychInfo) were searched for articles published between 2006-2014, reporting empirical data on pharmacist and nurse IPs education or practice. Data were extracted using themes from the model and analysed using framework analysis.

Results Twenty-nine studies met the inclusion criteria. Knowledge, pre-registration education, experience, support and confidence were some of the intrinsic and extrinsic factors influencing IPs. Difficulty transferring theory to practice was attributed to lack of basic pharmacology and bioscience content in pre-registration nursing rather than the prescribing programme. Students saw interventions using virtual learning or learning in practice, as more useful with long-term benefits e.g. students were able to use their skills in history taking following the virtual learning intervention 6-months after the programme. All studies demonstrated how engaging knowledge and skills affected individuals’ attitude by, for example, increasing professional dignity. IPs were able to develop their expertise when integrating their competencies in a workplace context with support from colleagues and adherence to guidelines.

Conclusion This is the first study to synthesise data systematically on expertise development from studies on IPs using the model. The model showed the need for stronger foundations in scientific knowledge amongst some IPs, where continuous workplace practice can improve skills and strengthen attitudes. This could facilitate a smoother transfer of learnt theory to practice, in order for IPs to be experts within their fields and not merely adequately competent.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-17
Number of pages11
JournalResearch in Social and Administrative Pharmacy
Early online date6 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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