Evaluation of an online medicines’ safety course for remote area nurses

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Tobias Speare
Chris Rissel
Sue Lenthall
Katie Pennington


Online learning, medicine management, remote area nursing


Background: Providing healthcare in a remote or rural setting can be complex and difficult, with many Remote Area Nurses not receiving sufficient orientation or preparation. This is particularly important for the management of medicines. Aim: This analysis evaluates an online medicines safety course called Pharmacotherapeutics for Remote Area Nurses. Study Design and Methods: Eight cohorts of students (n=629), between 2016–2020, were included in the evaluation. A mixed methods approach was used to evaluate the impact of the online pharmacotherapeutics course. At the end of each module and at the end of the course participants were asked to complete an online questionnaire. In-depth semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders (n=9) were also conducted, and data thematically analysed. Results: The online pharmacotherapeutics course was well received (average of 4.3 on a 5-point Likert scale). It was easy to navigate (2.6 on a 3-point Likert scale), the flow was logical (2.8 on a 3-point Likert scale) and it was clear how to achieve learning outcomes (2.8 on a 3-point Likert scale). The learning content in each of the modules were well received (4.1-4.5 on a 5-point Likert scale) and deemed appropriate for nurses practicing in the remote areas (2.7-2.9 on a 3-point Likert scale). Thematic analysis of the stakeholder interviews and participant surveys revealed the pharmacotherapeutics course improved knowledge, confidence, and competence of nurses in relation to medicines management and results in better preparedness of the remote health workforce. Key stakeholder feedback highlighted that the pharmacotherapeutics course was seen as an important part of preparing and upskilling the remote health workforce. Discussion: Overall, the pharmacotherapeutics course was well received by nurses and key informants. It improved self-reported knowledge, confidence, competence, and preparedness for nursing practice in remote locations. Conclusion: The continued support of professional development and education for the remote health workforce is vital to ensure optimum patient care.

What is already known about this topic?

  • People in remote Australia generally experience poorer health and face increased challenges in accessing care compared with major city counterparts.

  • In remote regions, access to healthcare services is reliant on the availability of a competent workforce with nurses forming the backbone of rural and remote primary care.

  • The use of medications is the most common intervention in healthcare and improvements in the quality use of medicines can have significant benefits to a person’s wellbeing.

What this paper adds:

  • Professional development and education for the remote health workforce is vital to ensure optimum patient care.

  • Education that is appropriate, relevant, and accessible can increase self-assessed knowledge, competence, and confidence in relation to medicines management.

  • Online education that is developed in collaboration with stakeholders and addresses an identified need is an acceptable and accessible method of providing professional development to the remote health workforce.

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