Frequency of prescribing errors by medical residents in various training programs

J Patient Saf. 2015 Jun;11(2):100-4. doi: 10.1097/PTS.0000000000000048.


Objectives: Medication errors are hazardous and costly. Children are at increased risk for medication errors because of weight-based dosing, limited FDA indications, and human calculation errors. The aim of this study is to determine the frequency and type of resident prescribing errors in a pediatric clinic and further compare error rates of residents in different training programs.

Methods: Resident prescription error data from a pediatric clinic was collected for 5 months. Upon detection of an error, residents were notified/given feedback regarding the type of error, ways to remedy errors, and future prevention methods. Data were categorized based on medication involved, error type, and resident training program.

Results: The review included 2941 prescriptions, with the overall resident prescribing error rate being 5.88%. The pediatric resident error rate was 4%. Family medicine, internal medicine, and medicine/pediatrics had error rates of 11%, 8%, and 7%, respectively. The prescribing error rate showed a statistically significant difference with pediatrics compared with family medicine, internal medicine, and medicine/pediatrics (P < 0.0005, P = 0.013, and P = 0.03, respectively). The most common medication error type was overdose, followed by unclear quantity. Among the medication classes, topical agents and antimicrobials were among the top prescribed.

Conclusions: Numerous types of medication errors occur in a pediatric clinic. Prescribing errors take place among all medical trainees; however, medication error rates in the pediatric population may vary among resident specialty. Identifying the cause of prescribing errors will allow institutions to create educational programs tailored for safe medication use in children as well as systemwide changes for error reduction.

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care Facilities
  • Child
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data*
  • Family Practice / education
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Internal Medicine / education
  • Internship and Residency / organization & administration
  • Internship and Residency / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • Medication Errors / prevention & control
  • Medication Errors / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pediatrics / education
  • United States