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Ward Medicines Assistants: a new role to support nurses with medication-related tasks

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Adam RathboneORCiD, Dr Waz Baqir



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


© Journal of Hospital Management and Health Policy. All rights reserved. Background: More people use more medications than ever before, which increases demands on the healthcare workforce to complete medication-related tasks. Nursing shortages are a challenge for many hospitals, therefore alternative roles are needed to create capacity within clinical teams to meet demands. Pharmacy assistants work in stores and dispensaries but with additional training can be redeployed as Ward Medicines Assistants (WMAs) to work in clinical settings to complete medication-related tasks. However, little is known about how much time WMAs spend on medication-related tasks or the impact this may have on productivity of nursing staff. Methods: Mixed methods were used to explore the impact of WMAs, universally deployed to inpatient wards in two hospitals. A 13-item survey was disseminated via email to doctors and nurses. Additionally, five WMAs kept task diaries to document how they spent their time over 27 non-consecutive days. Fifteen hours of observations were conducted to validate the diaries. Descriptive statistical and thematic analysis were used to identify findings and calculate average time per activity per day. A simple linear extrapolation model was used to estimate time and productivity gain over 5 years. Results: In total 4 hours and 40 minutes of time per day was spent on medication-related tasks equating to a projected productivity gain of £325, 017.42 over a 5-year period. Approximately 59% (t=4.87 hours) of time was spent on patient-specific medicines management, 16% (t=1.35 hours) on routine medication management, 14% (t=1.18 hours) on communication and 11% (t=0.88 hours) on document administration. Only 45% of medical and nursing staff reported they were fully aware of what tasks WMAs could do, suggesting further awareness is needed. Free-text comments indicated WMAs reduced medication-related tasks for nurses and relieved cognitive burden, however, also increased competition for access to work spaces. Other roles were also undertaken at ward level by WMAs which were otherwise not routinely done by nurses. Conclusions: WMAs have potential to complete medication-related tasks enabling nurses to have more time for patient care. Further economic analysis is needed to identify the full impact of this role.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Rathbone AP, Rumney R, Oxley K, Barnfather L, Fisher D, McFarlane G, Platton C, Smith K, Chandler S, Campbell D, Baqir W

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Hospital Management and Health Policy

Year: 2023

Volume: 7

Print publication date: 30/09/2023

Online publication date: 08/09/2023

Acceptance date: 01/09/2023

Date deposited: 09/10/2023

ISSN (electronic): 2523-2533

Publisher: AME Publishing Company


DOI: 10.21037/jhmhp-23-3


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