Objectives: To learn about medical students' knowledge of and perspectives on antibiotic prescribing and resistance, with the aim of helping to develop educational programmes.
Methods: Final-year students at seven European medical schools were invited to participate in an online survey in 2012.
Results: The response rate was 35% (338/961). Most students (74%) wanted more education on choosing antibiotic treatments. Students at all schools felt most confident in diagnosing an infection and least confident in choosing combination therapies, choosing the correct dose and interval of administration and not prescribing in cases of diagnostic uncertainty. Students felt that too many prescriptions and too much broad-spectrum antibiotic use were the most important contributors to resistance; some (24%) believed poor hand hygiene was not at all important. Most students (92%) believed that resistance is a national problem. Most (66%) felt that the antibiotics they would prescribe would contribute to resistance, and almost all (98%) felt that resistance would be a greater problem in the future. Most students (83%) incorrectly thought that rates of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteraemia had significantly increased over the past decade in their countries. There was little appreciation of the relative burden of resistance in Europe compared with road traffic accidents (around two to three times greater mortality) and lung cancer (around 10 times greater mortality).
Conclusions: Students wanted further education on antibiotic prescribing, and areas of lack of confidence were found. Students overestimated the current burden of resistant bacteria and were unaware of successes in reducing MRSA infections. Educational and stewardship programmes may benefit from including more cases of diagnostic uncertainty, and highlighting successes such as MRSA prevention, as evidence for the importance of current interventions.
Keywords: antibiotic stewardship; attitudes to health; education; questionnaire; survey.