Objectives: To determine the factors that influence non-consultant hospital doctors (NCHDs) in their decision to prescribe antimicrobial agents.
Methods: A qualitative study using semi-structured interviews centred on a life grid tracking the medical career of 22 NCHDs employed by a university teaching hospital in the west of Ireland.
Results: Early in their careers NCHD prescribing is based primarily on the immediate influence of more senior colleagues. Recollection of formalized undergraduate teaching and hospital guidelines are a very minor influence. As their career progressed and they exercise greater autonomy, personal experience becomes the major influence on prescribing decisions. Hospital guidelines are a minor influence. Participants consider that undergraduate teaching needs to be more practical and taught in a way that is easier to apply to on-ward situations and that hospital prescribing guidelines need to be presented in a 'user-friendly' format and adherence to the guidelines needs to be promoted.
Conclusions: The key influences on antimicrobial prescribing by NCHDs are informal. New approaches are required to ensure that formal training and hospital guidelines on antimicrobial prescribing are more influential in shaping antimicrobial prescribing practice.