Challenges to nurse prescribers of a no-antibiotic prescribing strategy for managing self-limiting respiratory tract infections

J Adv Nurs. 2012 Dec;68(12):2622-32. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2012.05960.x. Epub 2012 Feb 26.


Aims: To report a qualitative study of the experiences of nurse prescribers in managing patients with self-limiting respiratory tract infections.

Background: Patients frequently attend primary care with respiratory tract infections. Although a no-prescribing strategy is recommended for these consultations, general practitioners frequently prescribe antibiotics, citing non-clinical reasons such as patient pressure. Nurses increasingly manage people with respiratory tract infections, but research has not yet explored their experiences within such consultations.

Design: Semi-structured interviews and focus groups.

Methods: Fifteen semi-structured interviews and three focus groups (n=5, n=4, and n=12) with a purposive sample of nurse prescribers (n=34) and other non-medical prescribers (n=2) were conducted between November 2009-November 2010. A qualitative approach was used to develop conceptual categories from the dataset, and emerging themes were explored in subsequent interviews/focus groups.

Findings: Although participants reported experiencing numerous challenges within these consultations, they believed that they possessed some of the communication skills to deal effectively with patients without prescribing antibiotics. Participants reported that protocols supported their decision-making and welcomed the benefits of peer support in dealing with 'demanding' patients. However, the newness of nurses and other non-medical prescribers to the prescribing role meant that some were cautious in dealing with patients with respiratory tract infections.

Conclusion: Training for nurses and other non-medical prescribers should focus on building their confidence and skills to manage people with respiratory tract infections without recourse to antibiotics. Further work should seek to explore which strategies are most effective in managing respiratory tract infections while maintaining patient satisfaction with care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents*
  • Common Cold / drug therapy
  • Common Cold / nursing
  • Drug Utilization
  • Female
  • Guideline Adherence*
  • Humans
  • Inappropriate Prescribing / nursing
  • Inappropriate Prescribing / prevention & control*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Narration
  • Nurse Practitioners / education
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Practice Patterns, Nurses'*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / drug therapy
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / nursing*
  • United Kingdom


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents