Nurse Adviser teams have seen a rapid growth over the last 5 years, yet they remain an area of mystery for many. This article, the first of a series of 3, aims to start to shed some light on the role of Nurse Adviser within the pharmaceutical industry.
The Growth of Nurse Advisers
Nurse Adviser (or Advisor), Nurse Facilitator and Nurse Specialist are just some of the titles applied to Nurses working on a wide variety of programmes sponsored by pharmaceutical companies. There are great variances in their day to day roles, therapeutic specialities and programme objectives but the one commonality is that they are all registered nurses, working within the guidelines of the UKCC Code of Conduct and the ABPI Code of Practice1
All Nurse Advisers working in a nursing capacity are expected to be totally non-promotional, maintaining the highest professional and ethical standards at all times. They are introduced to practices as ‘independent’ nurses sponsored by X pharmaceutical company. Their services are not dependent on any particular product being prescribed. Their role usually provides benefits for a number of stakeholders from the patient through to the medical professionals and the sponsoring pharmaceutical company. It can also provide a great opportunity for more commercially-minded nurses who want a change from the NHS and want to specialise within one specific therapy area. (more on that in the next article).
It is this real win-win outcome that, in tandem with an increasing focus on health improvement, has heralded the rise of the Nurse Adviser. For busy practices trying to fulfil increasingly demanding clinical targets, a Nurse Adviser is a welcome additional resource who can assist in this area. The supernumerary nurse can focus their specialist skills on one specific area, leaving the practice staff to continue with their daily workloads.
The patients benefit because the nurses have the time to spend auditing and implementing best practice, identifying and reviewing patients against clinical guidelines, educating them and switching or introducing therapy if necessary. Hopefully this will result in better health outcomes for the patients.
The pharmaceutical company benefits by gaining kudos for sponsoring this additional expert resource and for raising standards in particular disease areas. Additionally, an increase in the size of the patient population being treated and increased compliance can lead to an increase in the market and even the market share. Although, the ethical nature of these programmes means that the Nurse Advisers never get involved in promoting any products, this still firmly remains the remit of the local medical representative.
One of the benefits of using a Nurse Adviser team which can not be emphasised enough is the relative ease of building close working relationships with customers. We have grown used to an environment where there has been a phenomenal growth in representative numbers, coupled with an increase in the number of doctors who ‘won’t see’. It is, therefore, refreshing for a pharmaceutical company to invest in a team of nurses who are welcomed into many practices because of the added value that they bring.
In many cases, nurse teams have worked on a local, regional and sometimes national basis, driving forward best practice and raising clinical standards in partnership with PCTs and Health Authorities. In particular, Nurse Advisers will work with these groups to assist in the development of policies, guidelines and patient group directions. In addition, publications arising from these programmes mean that an even wider audience can be reached. All in all, Nurse Advisers get closer to the customer than most representatives would ever imagine possible.
The Future of Nurse Advisers
The recent growth in Nurse Adviser teams, has clearly been in response to the changes in our customer’s environment. These changes have forced us to think of more novel ways of engaging our customers and building a meaningful and mutually beneficial relationship. These changes have also facilitated such opportunities.
Whilst our customers’ environment is driven by clinical targets through initiatives such as National Service Frameworks (NSFs), National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) and Health Improvement Plans (HImPs) the opportunities to utilise Nurse Adviser teams seem set only to increase. If your company does not already include Nurse Advisers in its business strategy there is a strong possibility that it won’t be long before it does. To find out more about maximising the relationship between representatives and Nurse Advisers see the third article in this series. In the meantime, the next instalment will consider the role from the nurse’s point of view.
the objectives for each nurse project can be extremely varied
including some or all of the following elements:
Education in specific therapy areas for both medical professionals and
Administering to patients
Reviewing patient therapy
Recommending alterations to drug dosage
Audit against a set of standards
Product support (compliance/education to patients)
Raising the profile of the sponsoring company
There are some healthcare companies who call their staff Nurse Advisers when in reality they are qualified nurses acting as sales representatives. These fall outside the term as used in this article.
Read the second part of this series by clicking here