My non medical prescribing journey by Caroline Ritchie @CaramacRitchie.

As a dietitian, I take a responsive, holistic approach to my patients’ needs. Becoming a supplementary prescriber has been an aspiration of mine for more than half of my dietetic career. Being able to prescribe within my clinical remit will extend the scope of my role as part of the renal multi disciplinary team, improve patient centeredness by supporting the work of my nephrologist colleagues and benefit the renal service resulting in timely patient care.

Caroline Ritchie, Deputy AHP eHealth Clinical Lead & Renal Dietitian

Despite not considering myself a student for over 20 years, at work I am constantly learning and striving to improve and develop. The skills I utilise on a daily basis are transferrable allowing me to engage and apply myself to this non-medical prescribing course.  I did not relish the thought of returning to studies, especially whilst continuing with my ‘day job’.  I have always had the end goal in sight, becoming a supplementary prescriber, recognising the benefits that will be gained from this role enhancement.  However, the process of achieving my goal appeared arduous, all-consuming and did not align with my busy job and family life. 

Following a successful application to Stirling University, the non-medical prescribing course commenced in May 2021. Due to ongoing Covid restrictions, the course was online with virtual meetings scheduled around independent learning.

On commencement of the course and becoming familiar with the portfolio of evidence required, the goal seemed even further out of reach.  Initially overwhelmed, I thought the task of achieving the 65 ‘Royal Pharmaceutical Society’ competencies and accruing over 90 hours practical learning would be insurmountable, especially as I only work in my clinical area two days per week.

Breaking the course down into ‘bite size’ chunks as my academic advisors counselled, I set myself small achievable targets. I focused on completion of the unit modules, then exam preparation before moving onto completion of the portfolio. Throughout this short intensive course I strived to achieve some practical learning hours each week. This was difficult to factor in, working 4 days each week but only 2 of these days being clinical, opportunities needed to be sought out and scheduled in advance.

In addition to the support from my Manager and Dietetic Team, I had the support of my Practice Assessor and Practice Supervisor throughout this course.  My Practice Supervisor, a Dietetic colleague, was extremely helpful as she had completed this course two years earlier and had lots of practical and useful advice, particularly as she prescribes on a regular basis.  I was blessed to also have peer support from two dietetic colleagues undertaking this course simultaneously; this resource was invaluable, providing mutual reassurance and encouragement throughout our journey.

Initially I struggled to prioritise course work around clinical commitments as there was no ring-fenced time for the course.  Following recommendations from our academic advisors, I requested additional time and 10 ‘protected’ days were released by my Manager. Ring fenced time was crucial and beneficial, being able to focus on learning the theory whilst applying this to practical hours. 

My recommendations for anyone considering undertaking this non-medical prescribing course are:

  • There must be a tangible benefit to your clinical area of practice
  • Good organisational skills and effective time management skills are vital.
  • Prior to applying, protected time needs to be agreed with Line Manager.  Backfill arrangements must be made and this requires careful consideration, ensuring the appropriate framework is in place.
  • Practice Supervisor – arrange short updates every few weeks.
  • Practice Assessor – select someone in your clinical area of work
  • Peer support from others undertaking the course is beneficial. Establish links with others on the course.
  • Break down tasks into bite-size chunks

The non-medical prescribing course has provided me with the opportunity to increase my knowledge and appreciation of medications and the prescribing decision making process.  I will be able to utilise this increased knowledge to facilitate early prescribing of phosphate binders in a timely manner to improve renal patient care, resulting in cost savings and decreased hospital admissions. 

I can provide support, in a supervisory capacity, to other Allied Health Professionals embarking on this journey.  My advice to anyone undertaking this course in the future is not to become overwhelmed; set small achievable targets, work to a timeline and seek support from colleagues and supervisors.

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