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Nurse practitioners (NPs) constitute the largest proportion of the current population of the advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) in the health care system of the United States. The medical students who explore the family practice specialty become the family nurse practitioners (FNPs). Family nurse practitioners have the advanced level training and can work in a variety of settings corresponding to their nursing role. The role family nurse practitioners play in the provision of care in their relevant facilities has evolved greatly over time. The range of functional responsibilities of these nurse practitioners has also attracted a substantial number of prospective nursing professionals. Consequently, this has seen the family nurse practitioners take up a predominant place in addressing patient care needs. One important aspect that family nurse practitioners are tasked with in healthcare settings is prescribing medications to their patients in the course of treatment.
Prescribing drugs to patients is a clinical role. Appropriately prescribed medicines are paramount in promoting patient safety and recovery. Inappropriate prescription raises huge patient concerns and can become a source of adverse effects in the primary care setting. The negative impact can increase the patient’s length of stay and health costs or even worse cause death. As such, a good understanding of the fundamental postulates of drugs prescription can augment patient safety and shield family practitioners against malpractice suits. Namely, family nurse practitioners need to possess profound knowledge of existing medications, their doses, and possible dangerous reactions to guarantee patients are safe in their respective area of practice. Nursing knowledge and experience in prescribing lays a strong foundation for a successful family nurse practitioner career. The prescriptive authority determines the drugs that family nurse practitioners are allowed to prescribe to their clients.
Prescriptive authority of the family nurse practitioners depends on the scope of practice in their respective states. According to Gadbois, Miller, Tyler, and Intrator (2015), state laws define the degree of authority that nurse practitioners have and their ability to practice independently. All nurse practitioners in the primary care facilities have received greater prescriptive authority over time owing to the intervention of the state Board of Nursing (Gadbois et al., 2015). The provision of such level of authority minimizes physician involvement amid their growing shortage in the healthcare settings and advances the professional development and role of nurse practitioners in the provision of care. Although some states authorize independent practice for nurse practitioners, others call for collaboration with physicians, direction, delegation, or even supervision of the prescription process (Gadbois et al., 2015). Several states also place restrictions on the ability of the nurse practitioners to prescribe controlled substances.
Prescribing medications depends on the drug distribution schedules which can vary notably due to the relevant state laws on prescriptive authority. Even so, some states that exercised strict regulations on prescriptions have relaxed the laws governing controlled substance prescriptions and given nurse practitioners greater prescriptive authority (Gadbois et al., 2015). With this in mind, nurse practitioners can prescribe more medications, including controlled substances without physician involvement. It thus suggests the evolution of the nurse practitioner roles as they have become more and more autonomous in their professional commitments. It is reflected in the fact that more states are now broadening the prescriptive authority that nurse practitioners are given with the majority currently allowing the prescription of drug schedules II-V. In some cases, states give nurse practitioners the prescriptive authority drug schedules III-V. These presuppose the growth of the scope of medications nurse practitioners can prescribe.
Family nurse practitioners have contributed significantly to prescribing antibiotics amid the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the country. According to Hicks et al. (2015), “Family practitioners prescribed the highest overall number of antibiotic courses” (p. 1311). It indicates that FNPs can play a proactive role in minimizing the episodes of antibiotic resistance through appropriate prescriptions. They also prescribe antibiotics for the management of a wide range of bacterial conditions. The alleviation of the inappropriate prescription problem depends on the strategies adopted to minimize such negative instances, including the cases of overprescribing. The reevaluation of the current prescribing practices can assist family nurse practitioners to address overprescribing and inappropriate prescribing issues in medical institutions (Hicks et al., 2015). More importantly, it requires nursing students pursuing the family nurse practitioners specialty to undergo adequate advanced pharmacology training.
Pharmacology training forms the basis for effective medication prescribing in the primary care setting. With the expanding prescriptive authority and limited physician involvement, family nurse practitioners require the adequate knowledge of pharmacology and treatment of a wide range of conditions. As such, this calls for creative strategies when providing advanced pharmacology training to nurse practitioners pursuing the family practice specialty. In addition, family nurse practitioners must be aware of the legal underpinnings of the expanding prescriptive authority (Aselton, 2013). Advanced pharmacology training provides family nurse practitioners with a greater understanding of common illnesses, which particularly pose a challenge determining the right prescription of medications. Hicks et al. (2015) noted that family nurse practitioners often prescribe broad-spectrum antibiotics to manage common bacterial infections even when not indicated for the treatment or when another drug would have been more appropriate. It thus amounts to inappropriate prescribing, which accounts for the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. Advanced pharmacology training is aimed at solving the issue eventually threatening the clients’ safety and health. For instance, patients with urinary tract infections often receive ciprofloxacin prescriptions even though it is not encouraged as a first-line drug therapy unless they have allergic reactions to the drug or have high chances of resistance (Hicks et al., 2015). However, with the adequate knowledge of pharmacological treatment variations, family nurse practitioners can adhere to appropriate ciprofloxacin use and minimize the cases of antibiotic resistance.
Family nurse practitioners can learn greatly by using case studies on the treatment options and determine the most suitable prescriptions to manage the underlying condition. The consideration of different case scenarios can provide more insights into diagnoses and ways of prescribing medications (Aselton, 2013). More importantly, family nurse practitioners should write prescriptions correctly to prevent the cases of medication errors. They can practice writing prescriptions for patients in case scenarios and sharpen the skill over time in diagnosing which is an essential precursor of the correct treatment plan. Prescribing drugs for the right diagnosis also prevents inappropriate prescribing. Family nurse practitioners should enter the diagnostic information when making or writing prescriptions for pharmacists to fulfill their patient teaching responsibilities effectively (Aselton, 2013). In addition, FNPs must consider the readily available and affordable medications when writing prescriptions for common illnesses. The low-cost alternatives minimize the burden to the patient and ensure that they will have an opportunity to buy more of them and thus their chances to recover sooner will also increase.
In conclusion, FNPs form a greater part of the total number of advanced practice registered nurses. Family nurse practitioners serve in the family practice area and have different roles in the provision of care. However, with the lack of physicians in medical facilities they are expected to expand their spectrum of expertise and must receive advanced training to execute these roles effectively. Prescribing medications is a very important function of the nursing professionals. Since prescriptions are not FNPs’ direct responsibility, they require advanced pharmacology knowledge and constant professional improvement to perform this role with limited patient safety concerns. Profound training helps in reducing the cases of medication errors, overprescribing, inappropriate prescribing, and their negative consequences. The prescriptive authority of NPs depends on the existing state laws that govern the drug schedules that they prescribe to patients. States often place restrictions on prescribing controlled substances and require physician involvement in this area. The shortage of the latter calls for the engagement of FNPs into the practice of prescribing drugs to clients as well. For this reason, family nurse practitioners should also master writing prescriptions to reduce the instances of medication errors and facilitate patient recovery based on the diagnostic information. Case studies or patient scenarios can help sharpen the skills of FNPs when it comes to diagnosing conditions and prescribing the correct treatment.