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Acad Emerg Med. 2000 Nov;7(11):1311-6.

The benefit of houseofficer education on proper medication dose calculation and ordering.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, Bellevue Hospital Center/New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA.



Drug dosing errors commonly cause morbidity and mortality. This prospective controlled study was performed to determine: 1) residents' understanding of drug dose calculations and ordering; and 2) the short-term effect of a brief educational intervention on the skills required to properly calculate dosages and order medications.


The study was conducted at an urban public hospital with a four-year emergency medicine (EM) residency program. The EM residents served as the study group and were unaware of the study design. A written, eight-question test (T1) with clinical situations and factual questions was administered. Immediately following the test, correct answers were discussed for 30 minutes. Key concepts were emphasized. Six weeks later, a repeat test (T2a) with a similar format was administered to the study group. The same test (T2b) was simultaneously administered to a control group, residents of similar training who did not take T1, in order to determine test equivalency (T1 vs T2). Tests were graded using explicit criteria by a single investigator blinded to the order of administration.


Twenty residents completed both tests T1 and T2a. Their mean scores were 48% and 70%, respectively (p < 0.001, paired t-test). The control group of ten residents had a mean score of 49% (T2b), similar to the study group's scores on T1 (T1 vs T2b, p = 0.40, unpaired t-test).


Emergency medicine residents require specific training in calculating and executing drug ordering. A brief educational intervention significantly improved short-term performance when retested six weeks later. Long-term retention is unknown.

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