Independent Prescribers Community of Practice

Categories: Care and Education.

Fiona Hodson and Mary Watson tell us more about St Christopher’s new programme for prescribers.

April 2023 sees the relaunch of our community of practice for prescribers.

We’ve given this successful programme a new name – Independent Prescribers Community of Practice and we have two new faces managing it. So, what should the 50 members of what was the Non-medical Prescribers Community of Practice expect come the first session in April and why, if you haven’t already, should you sign up for 2023?

We asked Fiona Hodson, Consultant Nurse and Mary Watson, Associate Consultant Nurse here at St Christopher’s, to make the case for why every independent prescriber should join this community.

What’s the community of practice for?

Prescribing drugs is a privilege and can have a very positive impact on patients. It also comes with a serious responsibility and it’s that sense of responsibility that can weigh heavily with independent prescribers.

That was certainly what Mary Watson, who’s worked at St Christopher’s for nine years, felt when she qualified as a prescriber, just before COVID-19.

Mary adds: “When I first started as a prescriber it made me anxious, I think it was just the responsibility and the type of drugs – it just hit me. During the pandemic I was prescribing for patients who I hadn’t met in person, just on the telephone or video and I found that level of responsibility daunting.”

Mary is a very experienced nurse. Having been through that period of unease, she knows what others in her position must feel like. In her case it was time, experience and reflection on specific cases that helped her to build confidence.

For Fiona, who has been prescribing for more than a decade and for whom it’s still a major part of her job, both actually prescribing or giving advice to colleagues, the sense of burden felt by fellow prescribers is still eminently relatable.

“People who join the community of practice are already competent clinicians and know what to do, but it would be like doing your driving test again and having your technique completely deconstructed by the instructor.

This community of practice also opens your eyes to the legal implications and can take you out of your comfort zone. Being a prescriber makes everyone, however experienced they are, suitably cautious.”

Being a prescriber makes everyone, however experienced they are, suitably cautious.

Fiona Hodson, Consultant Nurse, St Christopher’s Hospice


What to expect from the community of practice

Mary and Fiona’s goal is to provide members of this community of practice with a combination of up to date information and knowledge on new treatments and drugs and a real sense of support as part of a nationwide community – something that’s especially valuable for people working in smaller organisations.

Fiona says: “We are lucky here at St Christopher’s with a big team and a number of prescribers to talk to for advice. But you could be the only prescriber in a hospice and so it’s a great to have colleagues you can share experiences with.”

The format will remain the same as it was in 2022 when the community was known as Non-Medical Prescribers Community of Practice. That means an alternate monthly programme with online topic specific sessions via Zoom one month, followed by online learning available the next.

Mary and Fiona surveyed the 50 members of the community at the end of last year to find out what topics they wanted to focus on, as part of the collaborative approach they’re keen to foster.

“We really are driven by their desire for what they want to learn about and it’s usually something specific,” says Mary. “The dream is that this collaborative approach will extend to different members of the community contributing case studies to the bi-monthly sessions.”

The curriculum for 2023 will feature sessions on Parkinson’s, nausea and vomiting, sedation, dementia and innovations in palliative care medications including cannabinoids.

Members of the community will find the two-hour bi-monthly sessions engaging and interactive, Fiona says. She adds: “We’ll have breakout rooms and use all the new learning tools like Mentometer and Padlet to engage with the community regularly and to facilitate flexible learning.”

Who should join the community?

Fiona says she’d encourage absolutely everyone who is an independent prescriber to join. “This community is ideal for any independent prescriber in palliative care, whether you’re working in the community, in a hospice or hospital team or a nurse in a GP practice. I’d also urge people doing the prescribing course now to join as the community can provide a lot of support during what can be a very stressful time in your career. We all learn together by hearing different perspectives on the same issue. This community of practice is all about ongoing support and continuous learning.”

Mary provides a personal recommendation for her fellow prescribers, based on her experience of the community. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to form relationships with people in different organisations. It really helped me when people in the community presented case studies and talked through real situations they’d been involved in. It’s so reassuring to know that you’re not alone, that we all learn together and that it’s a safe environment where you are not judged.”

It’s so reassuring to know that you’re not alone, that we all learn together and that it’s a safe environment where you are not judged.

Mary Watson, Associate Consultant Nurse, St Christopher’s Hospice

The first date for your diary is Thursday 13 April (all the sessions are on a Thursday). The two hour session on Parkinson’s starts at 2pm and will include external speakers, breakout sessions and case studies. For more information about the community and how to join, click here. .



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