(How) Can technology support Remote Area Nurses in Quality Use of Medicines?

Mr Tobias Speare1

1Centre For Remote Health, Alice Springs, Australia


The presentation will discuss the use of online education and technology in reducing access barriers to professional development and resources for the remote health workforce, in particular the experience of developing and conducting an online pharmacotherapeutics course.

Nurses form the backbone of primary care in remote Australia and provide vital services, especially in relation to chronic disease management. Remote Area Nurses practise at an advanced level often with limited or distant medical support.  This highlights the need for advanced knowledge and skills management.

Geographic isolation, poor access to technological infrastructure and financial factors, such as funding to support travel or cost of attendance, have been identified as the major barriers to remote health workforce undertaking professional development. The Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute found that effective orientation and continuing professional development is vital for ensuring an adequately skilled and professionally satisfied workforce, and that continuing professional development is an important factor in workforce retention. In 2003 the Centre for Remote Health developed a course in medicines use in disease management. Consultation with stakeholders identified that access and geographic isolation, to the face-to-face course, was a significant and costly barrier. However, in situations where internet access is unreliable, how else can nurses be assisted to achieve the desired learning outcome of critical reasoning to ensure safe and effective use of medicines, and be provided in an engaging way?

The resultant self-paced online course based on adult learning principles encourages clinical reasoning, knowledge development and use of recommended evidence based information sources while remaining in the communities where they are providing care. Pharmacotherapeutics for Remote Area Nurses has been well received by nurses and health service providers, and is being used as an introduction for many nurses new to the remote context.




Tobias Speare is the pharmacy academic at the Centre for Remote Health, a joint University Department of Rural Health of Flinders University and Charles Darwin University. Toby possesses a keen interest in improving health care in a holistic fashion. In particular improving the Quality Use of Medicines through education and research.