Background: Prescribing medicines is one of the most common interventions in health care, so even a small percentage of prescribing errors can affect many patients. Many of these errors are prevented by the intervention of pharmacists. Research has identified gaps in medical education and training that contribute to these errors. More effective learning opportunities for prescribing at undergraduate level will help to improve the preparation of junior doctors for their role.
Context: Traditionally, doctors have acquired their prescribing skills through an apprenticeship model. Given the complexity of current health care and increasing polypharmacy, a more systematic approach to safe prescribing is required. The pharmacist can have a key role in education and the practice of safe prescribing.
Innovation: Final-year students at the University of Dundee Medical School are invited to undertake sessions to rehearse safe prescribing practices using an objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) format. This helps to recreate the time pressures of practice with a focus on the elements of safe prescribing for patients. On a simulated ward, students rehearse six situations that represent the basis of commonly reported prescribing errors. Each scenario has four prescribing related tasks, one of which is feedback from a pharmacist. An evaluation of this approach and students' self-reported learning indicated that it was a useful way of enhancing awareness of errors and of increasing confidence. The pharmacist can have a key role in education and the practice of safe prescribing
Implications: There are several benefits for students in having pharmacists design and facilitate the OSCE clinical scenarios, which include the immediate learning of accurate prescribing as well as the advisory role that the pharmacists play.