Introduction: Relatively few psychiatrists live and work in rural South Australia. The rural GP is an essential component of support for people with mental health problems. However, considerable GP maldistribution between rural and metropolitan Australia still exists. Thus, accessing health services, including medication, becomes challenging for rural communities. Extending mental health nurse prescribing could be a strategy to build additional capacity to complement the GPs and psychiatrists who practice in rural South Australia. Until now, no studies have examined mental health workers’ attitudes towards nurse prescribing in rural Australia.
Objective: To examine the attitudes of rural and remote South Australian mental health workers about mental health nurse prescribing.
Design/method: A cross-sectional survey assessing mental health workers’ attitudes to mental health nurse prescribing.
Setting: The study was conducted across South Australia, excluding metropolitan Adelaide.
Participants: Mental health workers employed by the Country Health South Australia Local Health Network for Mental Health.
Results: Of the 289 potential participants, 93 (32%) responded and were included in this study. All the respondents reported positive attitudes towards mental health nurse prescribing. However, they expressed concerns about safety, educational preparation and supervision structures.
Conclusion: The attitudes of rural South Australian mental health workers are not a barrier to mental health nurse prescribing. The implementation and sustainability of mental health nurse prescribing will require additional staff training in psychopharmacology and a governance framework to assure quality and safety. Policy-makers need to focus their attention on the uptake of mental health nurse prescribing in parts of Australia that struggle to attract and retain psychiatrists.