Intravenous fluid prescribing practices by foundation year one doctors - a questionnaire study

JRSM Short Rep. 2012 Sep;3(9):64. doi: 10.1258/shorts.20121.012041. Epub 2012 Sep 20.


Objectives: Foundation Year Ones (FY1s) are the most junior doctors in the UK who are often required to prescribe intravenous fluid to patients not under their regular care, during on-call or out-of-hours ward cover. This study aimed to investigate FY1s' practice and decision-making process of intravenous fluid prescribing to these patients.

Design: Questionnaire survey.

Setting: Survey on Practices during on-calls and out-of-hours ward covers.

Participants: FY1s of five National Health Service (NHS) hospitals in England and Scotland.

Results: All 149 FY1s responded to survey. Eighty-six percent have been taught intravenous fluid prescribing during medical school, compared with only 48% in FY1 induction. More than half always/often checked the patient's urea and electrolytes (U&Es) (72%), read the fluid balance (58%) and observation charts (80%), discussed the case with nursing staff (75%), enquired about oral status (82%), identified the main diagnosis/operation (75%) and indication for intravenous fluid (72%) of the patient when prescribing intravenous fluid. However, less than half often/always read the medical notes (43%) or performed clinical examinations on patients (16%). Most FY1s (94%) always/often checked patient's U&Es when prescribing potassium.

Conclusions: The questionnaire study demonstrated variations among FY1s in the practice and decision-making process of intravenous fluid prescribing to patients unknown to them, during on-calls or out-of-hours ward covers. Such variations in practice should be addressed especially by medical and foundation schools, and NHS hospitals to improve patient care.