Do junior docs know how to write a prescription?

August 21st, 2008 - 11:35 am ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Aug 21 (IANS) Junior doctors are the ones who prescribe medicines and they are also the most likely to commit errors in prescribing, according to a medical expert. Ian Coombes, a trained pharmacist, undertook research into safe prescribing practices for junior doctors as part of his doctorate with University of Queensland’s Schools of Pharmacy and Medicine.

“We found that in all their training junior doctors learn about diseases and symptoms and what drugs to prescribe, but they weren’t really taught about how to tailor those to individual patients such as dosage and frequency and this is where most errors occur.”

Those problems were then compounded when they worked in different hospitals where medication charts varied from site to site and sometimes even from ward to ward within the same hospital, he said.

“It really was a case of the pen being mightier than the scalpel. We don’t let junior doctors operate on patients by themselves, but we were letting them prescribe medication without proper training.”

Coombes said his research had led to two important developments for doctor training as well as hospital practices.

“We developed a safe prescribing training programme that has been part of the training for all final year medical students at UQ since 2006. Parts of our programme have also been adopted by the National Prescribing Service,” he said.

“We also developed a standardised medication chart that has been adopted by Queensland Health and implemented across all of its 108 facilities across the state as well as being rolled out nationally.

“No other country in the world has such a system of standardised charts and we are hoping to share our work around the world.

“While we will never eradicate mistakes completely, these developments have seen a significant drop in prescribing errors.”

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