Nurse practitioner prescribing practices: the most frequently prescribed medications

Document Type


Publication details

Buckley, T, Cashin, A, Stuart, M, Browne, G & Dunn, SV 2013, 'Nurse practitioner prescribing practices: the most frequently prescribed medications', Journal of Clinical Nursing, vol. 22, no. 13-14, pp. 2053-2063.

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Aims and objectives

To explore which medications Australian nurse practitioners most frequently prescribe.


Although nurse practitioners in Australia have prescriptive authority, little is known about which specific medications nurse practitioners are prescribing and how frequently they do so.


Descriptive electronic survey.


A total of 209 nurse practitioners reported current prescribing practices. Medications reported were categorised according to the Australian Medicines Handbook major drug classifications and frequencies presented.


Seventy-eight per cent of respondents reported prescribing medications as part of their Nurse Practitioner practice. In total, participants reported prescribing 234 separate medications from most Australian Medicines Handbook major drug classifications. Medications from the classification anti-infective drugs were most frequently prescribed followed by medications from analgesic, psychotropic, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, genitourinary and gastrointestinal classifications.


The majority of nurse practitioners in Australia prescribe medications in their clinical practice, although the proportion of nurse practitioners prescribing has not changed significantly in the past four years. The medications prescribed are comparable with those most frequently prescribed by all prescribers in Australia and highlight the diversity in scope of practice among nurse practitioners.

Relevance to clinical practice

Findings highlight the importance of Nurse Practitioner's a capacity to prescribe wide variety of medications, especially in practice areas such acute, primary and emergency care. The unique role nurse practitioners in relation to management of patients with infective processes and patients requiring pain relief is highlighted. Insight into current Nurse Practitioner prescribing trends informs future Nurse Practitioner curricular and future continuing education programmes. Findings give unique insight for future service planning, especially service providers considering introducing nurse practitioners to their service. The finding that nurse practitioners prescribing patterns are similar to other non-nurse practitioner prescribers in Australia highlights the potential for service providers to introduce new models of care that are Nurse Practitioner lead.

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