Problem-based training for medical students reduces common prescription errors: a randomised controlled trial

Med Educ. 2009 Oct;43(10):1010-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2009.03452.x.


Context: Avoidable drug-related problems (DRPs) cause substantial morbidity, mortality and costs. As most prescription errors are committed by recently graduated doctors, undergraduate training should specifically address DRPs.

Objectives: This study set out to investigate whether a DRP teaching module can reduce prescription errors made by advanced medical students in varying clinical contexts.

Methods: A total of 74 Year 5 medical students (mean age 25 +/- 3 years; 24 men, 50 women) participated in a randomised controlled crossover study. Students filled in patients' prescription charts before and after a special DRP training module and a control intervention. The 1-week training module comprised a seminar on common prescription errors, a prescribing exercise with a standardised paper case patient, drafting of inoperative prescription charts for real patients and discussions with a lecturer. During the observation points, prescription charts for standardised patient cases in different clinical contexts had to be completed. These prescription charts were subsequently analysed by two independent raters using a checklist for common prescription errors.

Results: Prior to training, students committed a mean of 69 +/- 12% of the potential prescription errors. This decreased to 29 +/- 15% after DRP training (P < 0.001).

Conclusions: Prescription errors can be significantly reduced in a relatively brief training time by implementing a specific DRP teaching module.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Clinical Competence / standards*
  • Drug Prescriptions*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / standards*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medication Errors / prevention & control*
  • Problem-Based Learning / methods*
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Young Adult