Journal of Professional Nursing

Nurse Prescribing In New Zealand:  Professional Gain Or Political Loss?   

Elmar Beekman, RCpN, PostGrad. Dipl. HSM., Drs., (Maastricht University,  The Netherlands). Previously Lecturer, School of Health Sciences,  Massey University, Wellington   

Lesley Patterson, BEd, Dip. Women’s Studies, BA (Hons).  Lecturer, School of Sociology, Social Policy, and Social Work,  Massey University, Wellington. 

Beekman, E., & Patterson, L. (2003). Nurse  prescribing in New Zealand: Professional gain or  political loss? Nursing Praxis in New Zealand, 19(1),  15-22.   



Change in the work of nurses is currently being driven by two main developments.  Some nurses can now be legally mandated to undertake the traditional medical  task of prescribing, while at the same time the delegation of routine nursing work  to unregistered care workers has become more common. An optimistic reading of  these changes might suggest they illustrate the successful professionalisation of  nursing, by and for nurses. However, by locating changes to nursing’s scope of  practice within the historical context of the Health Reforms, an alternative reading  is possible. With particular reference to nurse prescribing, we argue that changes  in nursing work are often politically driven, rather than being simply outcomes of  nurse-led developments towards extending autonomous nursing practice.   

Key Words: Nurse prescribing, health reforms, professional autonomy, commodification   


Several commentators have argued  that in general nurses react to health  policy rather than determine the  direction such policy should take  (Lange & Cheek, 1997; McCartney,  Tyrer, Brazier & Prayle, 1999). In New  Zealand, for example, nursing as a  profession was largely invisible in  setting the direction of the Health  Reforms of the early 1990s (White,  1995). However the work of nurses  was crucial to the implementation of  the reforms, and as the policy  environment driving the health sector  changed so too did the scope of  nursing practice.  Continued

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