Randomized, controlled trial of prescribing training in a South African Province

J. C. Meyer, R. S. Summers*, H. Möller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: Prescribing practices impact greatly on drug use and expenditure. The situation in developing countries is often compounded by a limited health budget. Furthermore, because of role substitution in these countries, prescribers are often not formally trained in rational prescribing. The study described in this paper assesses the effect of a prescribing training intervention for primary health care nurses. Design: A generic training-of-trainers course and a 4-day effective prescribing course were presented to 24 provincial trainers. These trainers then conducted effective prescribing workshops for 20 primary health care nurses per workshop. In 1997, 457 prescribers were trained by this method in South Africa's Northern Province. The study investigated the impact of the training on prescribing practices for two target conditions, in a control and a study group of 11 clinics each, 1 month after and 3 months after the intervention. Setting: Primary health care clinics in the Lowveld Region of the Northern Province of South Africa. Results: Prescribing practices for the two conditions examined were significantly improved by the training. Changed behaviour was not only seen in prescribing for upper respiratory tract infections, used as an example condition, but also for diarrhoea and/or vomiting, a common condition in the region, which was not included in the training programme. These results show that prescribers not only retained the knowledge gained, but were also able to apply their new skills to other conditions (transfer effect). The change in the study group was maintained for 3 months after training, while there were no significant improvements in prescribing in the control group. Interpretation: The training intervention had a beneficial effect on prescribing practices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)833-840
Number of pages8
JournalMedical Education
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • Drug therapy, methods
  • Family practice
  • Nurse practitioners, education
  • Prescriptions, drug, standards
  • South Africa
  • Teaching, methods


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