Purpose: To examine the medication advice-seeking network of staff in a hospital ward.
Methods: Social network analysis was carried out in a renal ward of an Australian metropolitan teaching hospital. The medication advice-seeking interactions of doctors, nurses, allied health professionals (including a pharmacist) and a ward clerk were examined using data from questionnaires administered to staff. The questionnaire listed all staff who worked in the ward and sought information from respondents regarding their interactions with each staff member. Data were analysed using social network software, UCINET. Analyses performed included geodesic distance, network density, strength of ties, reciprocation of relations, and centrality of individuals. NetDraw was used to produce social network diagrams.
Results: A very high response rate of 96% was achieved with 45 of 47 staff returning the questionnaire. On average, there is little interaction between each of the staff members in the medication advice-seeking network, with even less interaction between staff from different professional groups. Nurses are mainly located on one side of the network and doctors on the other. However, the pharmacist is quite central in the medication advice-seeking network as are some senior nurses and a junior doctor.
Conclusions: When hospital clinical staff seek medication advice from other members of a ward it tends to be sought from those in their profession. However key individuals in the ward are relied upon for the provision of medication advice by staff from all professions. Social network analysis can be used to examine the complex medication advice-seeking interactions amongst staff in a hospital ward, providing useful quantitative baseline data against which to compare the effect of interventions, such as an electronic medication system, on interactions.
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