The effects of resident level of training on the rate of pediatric prescription errors in an academic emergency department

Garrett S Pacheco, Chad Viscusi, Daniel P Hays, Dale P Woolridge
Journal of Emergency Medicine 2012, 43 (5): e343-8

BACKGROUND: Medication errors are a leading cause of increased cost and iatrogenic injury in the pediatric population. In the academic setting, studies have suggested that these increased error rates are related primarily to resident inexperience, thus advocating a higher level of supervision.

STUDY OBJECTIVE: We sought to identify the number of prescription errors in our institution's academic Emergency Department, how this varied between the beginning and end of the academic year and between practitioners at varying levels of training.

METHODS: A retrospective review of computer-based outpatient prescriptions for children aged 0-12 years old was performed. Outpatient prescriptions were reviewed during a 2-week time block at the end of the academic year and beginning of the academic year (109 [June] and 111 [July] data sets, respectively). Prescriptions were retrieved electronically and reviewed for appropriate dosing. Errors were defined as those that varied>10% above or below recommended weight-based dosing.

RESULTS: Twenty-nine (16.1%) of 180 written prescription orders were determined to be incorrectly written. Error rates were not significantly different between the beginning and end of the academic year. In both sampling periods, a higher percentage were found to be derived from senior level practitioners in both data sets (9/14 and 10/15; respectively), but few of these were considered high-grade prescription errors.

CONCLUSIONS: Overall prescription error rates at our institution are comparable to nationally reported error rates in children. Error rates were not associated with newly matriculated residents. These findings dispute previously held opinion that physician level of training is a factor of prescription errors.

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