The pharmacist as prescriber: A discourse analysis of newspaper media in Canada

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Abstract

Background

Legislation to expand the scope of practice for pharmacists to include authority to independently prescribe medications in Alberta, Canada was announced in 2006 and enacted in April 2007. To date, very little research has explored public views of pharmacist prescribing.

Objective

This study analyzes newspaper media coverage of pharmacist prescribing 1 year before and 2 years after prescribing was implemented.

Methods

News items related to pharmacist prescribing were retrieved from 2 national, Canadian newspapers and 5 local newspapers in Alberta over a 3-year period after the announcement of pharmacist prescribing. A purposive sample of 66 texts including news items, editorials, and letters were retrieved electronically from 2 databases, Newscan and Canadian Newsstand. This study uses social positioning theory as a lens for analyzing the discourse of pharmacist prescribing.

Results

The results demonstrate a binary positioning of the debate on pharmacist prescribing rights. Using social positioning theory as a lens for analysis, the results illustrate self- and other-positioning of pharmacists' expected roles as prescribers. Themes related to the discourse on pharmacist prescribing include qualifications, diagnosis, patient safety, physician support, and conflict of interest. Media representations of pharmacist prescribing point to polarized views that may serve to shape public, pharmacist, physician, and others' opinions of the issue.

Conclusions

Multiple and contradictory views of pharmacist prescribing coexist. Pharmacists and pharmacy organizations are challenged to bring clarity and consistency about pharmacist prescribing to better serve the public interest in understanding options for health care services.

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