Insider Profile: Nurses Who Prescribe

Feb 01, 2002

Gail Kincaide
The Association of Women's Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses is an important source of health information, and many of its 22,000 members are called upon to prescribe medications. A recent Gallup poll shows that women, who make 75 percent of all healthcare decisions for their families, trust nurses more than any other medical professional. Yet Gail Kincaide, the association's executive director, still faces sizeable challenges. Her goal is to make nurses more visible as prescribers and to help alleviate the impending nursing shortage as older practitioners retire and baby boomers' health needs grow.

MM: Why do pharma companies often exclude nurses from detailing efforts?

Kincaide: Pharma companies traditionally haven't been aware of the scope of nursing and the role of practitioners. Nurses spend considerable time talking with patients and are the most likely individuals within the healthcare system to do one-on-one counseling. In the United States, there are 140,000 advanced practice registered nurses (APRN)-registered nurses who have a master's or doctoral degree in nursing and can prescribe in 49 states.

MM: What are you doing to increase awareness of APRNs?

Kincaide: AWHONN is educating the staffs of large healthcare companies about nurses' roles through relationship building, planning forums, and distribution of our e-newsletter Industry

Insider-which discusses healthcare trends, patient care delivery issues, and the nursing workforce-to more than 35 companies including Pfizer, Ortho-McNeil, and Wyeth-Ayerst.

It seems to be working. Companies are providing more sponsorship dollars and resources that enable nursing organizations to deliver quality educational programs and resources to their members, including sessions at conventions and materials that nurses can give to their patients.

MM: What other factors contribute to awareness?

Kincaide: Pharma companies are taking an interest in APRNs as healthcare needs change. Particularly in parts of the country where the population is medically underserved, APRNs are doing much more primary care. Even where health services are readily available, they have increased opportunities to influence primary healthcare decisions because of greater time constraints on physicians. We look to pharma companies to help us provide relevant, timely information to APRNs on the latest clinical advances and developments in drug therapies to enhance patient care.

MM: What are you working on now?

Kincaide: Of particular interest to us is a multi-year initiative to promote better cardiovascular health in women. Funded by Pfizer Women's Health and the Pfizer Foundation, the program includes the dissemination of an evidence-based clinical practice guideline on prevention and risk-reduction strategies for cardiovascular disease. It also involves partnerships with 15 other nursing organizations.

MM: What other problems can pharma help AWHONN resolve?

Kincaide: Nurses must be armed with cutting-edge therapeutic information.We are particularly concerned about the nursing shortage because we know that specialty care units, emergency departments, labor and delivery rooms, and critical care units will be the hardest hit. By the year 2020, demand for nursing services is expected to exceed supply by 20 percent.

We are actively involved with federal-level education and health policy development and community-level programs that provide incentives to recruit people into the profession, retain nurses, and remove some of the stereotypes identifying nurses as women only. We are part of the steering committee of the "Call to the Nursing Profession" effort to identify remedies that range from leadership and planning issues, to diversity, to recruitment and retention issues. Clearly, industry's financial support will be required to stem this impending public health crisis.

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