Background Community pharmacies provide an ideal setting to address diet and nutrition-related issues and promote positive eating habits among the public. However, there is limited evidence of the expertise among pharmacists to deliver evidence-based nutrition information. In Ireland, there is a lack of existing literature relating to self-perceived nutrition competencies of practising pharmacists.
Objectives The aim of this study was to assess registered Irish pharmacists’ knowledge and confidence when delivering nutrition care to the public.
Methods Cross-sectional study using mixed methods design consisting of an anonymous online survey delivered to registered pharmacists with the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI). The pharmacists’ self-perceived confidence in knowledge, skills, communication and counselling, and attitudes in nutrition care were assessed using the validated NUTCOMP questionnaire. Qualitative responses to nutrition knowledge requirements of pharmacists were also gathered. Data in the free text narratives was coded into themes and subthemes. Responses were analysed using descriptive statistics. A p-value of <0.05 was considered statistically significant.
Results A total of n=557 (14.9% response rate; 74% (n=413) female; 1.6% (n=9) gender not stated) respondents completed the questionnaire. The mean number of years practising as a registered pharmacist was 18 (±10.1). Most respondents (60.8%) had completed a programme with some nutrition content. Previous nutrition education was positively associated with greater score counts in knowledge, skills, communication/counselling and attitudes towards nutrition care (p=0≤.001). Over three-quarters of respondents (78.1%) agreed that they would require further nutrition education to support their roles as pharmacists. Thematic analysis identified barriers to providing nutritional care in practice as time constraints, a lack of nutrition knowledge in the pharmacy field and the need for continuing nutrition education.
Conclusion Irish pharmacists expressed a desire to incorporate nutrition education to support them in their role as confidence in competencies of nutrition care is currently lacking. Through their broad exposure to the general population of Ireland, pharmacists may prove valuable to deliver nutrition care to both healthy persons and those living with chronic diseases.
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