Learning from Ireland: expanding the role of nurses and midwives to improve health outcomes

A survey that included 32 countries in Europe in 2015 found that more than two thirds had extended the official scopes of practice of nurses in primary care. Ireland is one of those countries. 

As of April 2016, a total of 894 nurses and midwives in the country were registered to prescribe medicinal products. This includes 193 advanced nurse practitioners in 53 specialties and 8 advanced midwife practitioners in 6 specialties, all registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland. It is not necessary to be an advanced practitioner to prescribe. 

While the overall number of prescribing nurses and midwives has remained small in numerical terms since the introduction of the regulations in 2008, the impact has been significant. An independent evaluation reported that expanding nurse roles in Ireland has led to, among other things: 

  • improved continuity of patient care;
  • reduced admission rates;
  • reduced workload of doctors;
  • reduced waiting times for services;
  • improved family and carer satisfaction; and
  • increased professional development and satisfaction of nurses and midwives

To read more about expanding the role of nurses and midwives on the WHO Europe website go to: WHO/Europe | Health workforce – Learning from Ireland: expanding the role of nurses and midwives to improve health outcomes