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Clin Infect Dis. 2019 Jun 18;69(1):12-20. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciy844.

The Differences in Antibiotic Decision-making Between Acute Surgical and Acute Medical Teams: An Ethnographic Study of Culture and Team Dynamics.

Author information

1
Health Protection Research Unit in Healthcare-Associated Infections and Antimicrobial Resistance, National Institute for Health Research, Imperial College London.
2
Department of Health Sciences, University of Leicester, United Kingdom.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Cultural and social determinants influence antibiotic decision-making in hospitals. We investigated and compared cultural determinants of antibiotic decision-making in acute medical and surgical specialties.

METHODS:

An ethnographic observational study of antibiotic decision-making in acute medical and surgical teams at a London teaching hospital was conducted (August 2015-May 2017). Data collection included 500 hours of direct observations, and face-to-face interviews with 23 key informants. A grounded theory approach, aided by Nvivo 11 software, analyzed the emerging themes. An iterative and recursive process of analysis ensured saturation of the themes. The multiple modes of enquiry enabled cross-validation and triangulation of the findings.

RESULTS:

In medicine, accepted norms of the decision-making process are characterized as collectivist (input from pharmacists, infectious disease, and medical microbiology teams), rationalized, and policy-informed, with emphasis on de-escalation of therapy. The gaps in antibiotic decision-making in acute medicine occur chiefly in the transition between the emergency department and inpatient teams, where ownership of the antibiotic prescription is lost. In surgery, team priorities are split between 3 settings: operating room, outpatient clinic, and ward. Senior surgeons are often absent from the ward, leaving junior staff to make complex medical decisions. This results in defensive antibiotic decision-making, leading to prolonged and inappropriate antibiotic use.

CONCLUSIONS:

In medicine, the legacy of infection diagnosis made in the emergency department determines antibiotic decision-making. In surgery, antibiotic decision-making is perceived as a nonsurgical intervention that can be delegated to junior staff or other specialties. Different, bespoke approaches to optimize antibiotic prescribing are therefore needed to address these specific challenges.

KEYWORDS:

antimicrobial decision-making; culture; team dynamics

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