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Acad Med. 2005 Jun;80(6):594-9.

Safe medication prescribing: training and experience of medical students and housestaff at a large teaching hospital.

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Department of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri 63110, USA.



To assess medical students' and housestaff's knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors regarding safe prescribing.


In 2003, 214 housestaff (interns and residents) and 77 medical students in medicine and surgery at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, St. Louis, Missouri, were asked to complete an anonymous, self-administered questionnaire about safe prescribing. Questions asked about training in and attitudes about safe-prescribing and current prescribing behaviors. Fisher exact test was used to compare attitudes and behaviors among subgroups.


Of the 175 (60%) respondents, 73 (59%) of 123 housestaff and eight (15%) of 52 students agreed that their safe-prescribing training was adequate (p < .001), and 145 (83%) total respondents agreed that prescribing errors were unacceptable. Respondents reported always doing the following: 156 (89%) checked prescribing information before prescribing new drugs, 131 (75%) checked for drug allergies, 103 (59%) double-checked dosage calculations, 98 (56%) checked for renal impairment, and 53 (30%) checked for potential drug-drug interactions.


Routine use of safe medication prescribing behaviors among housestaff and medical students was poor. Contributing factors may have included inadequate training and a culture that does not support safe prescribing. Effective strategies to increase safe medication prescribing need to be identified and implemented.

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