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Human factors perspective on the prescribing behavior of recent medical graduates: implications for educators

Authors Gordon M, Catchpole K, Baker P

Received 19 November 2012

Accepted for publication 11 December 2012

Published 10 January 2013 Volume 2013:4 Pages 1—9


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Morris Gordon,1,2 Ken Catchpole,3 Paul Baker1,4

1Faculty of Health and Social Care, University of Salford, Salford, UK; 2Department of Paediatrics, Fairfield General Hospital, Bury, UK; 3Department of Surgery, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA, USA; 4North Western Deanery, Manchester, UK

Background: Junior doctors are at high risk of involvement in medication errors. Educational interventions to enhance human factors and specifically nontechnical skills in health care are increasingly reported, but there is no work in the context of prescribing improvement to guide such education. We set out to determine the elements that influence prescribing from a human factors perspective by recent medical graduates and use this to guide education in this area.
Methods: A total of 206 recent medical graduates of the North Western Foundation School were asked to describe their views on safety practices and behaviors. Free text data regarding prescribing behaviors were collected 1, 2, and 4 months after starting their posts. A 94.1% response rate was achieved. Qualitative analysis of data was completed using the constant comparison method. Five initial categories were developed, and the researchers subsequently developed thematic indices according to their understanding of the emerging content of the data. Further data were collected through group interviews 8–9 months into the placement to ensure thematic saturation.
Results: Six themes were established at the axial coding level, ie, contributors to inappropriate prescribing, contributors to appropriate prescribing, professional responsibility, prescribing error, current practices, and methods for improvement of prescribing. Utilizing appropriate theoretical elements, we describe how recent medical graduates employ situational and error awareness to guide risk assessment.
Conclusion: We have modeled the human factors of prescribing behavior by recent medical graduates. As these factors are related to a number of recognized elements of nontechnical skills training within health care, educators should consider design elements from such existing interventions to support prescribing improvement programs. Future research should seek to assess the effectiveness of prescribing focused nontechnical skills training.

Keywords: medication error, patient safety, nontechnical skills

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