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Junior doctors’ communication with hospital pharmacists about prescribing: findings from a qualitative interview study

Abstract

Objectives To explore factors affecting communication between Foundation Year (FY) 1 doctors and hospital pharmacists about prescribing from the junior doctors’ perspective.

Methods Trained interviewers (n=4) conducted semistructured interviews with FY1 doctors who were purposively sampled from three hospitals in England. FY1 doctors were asked about their experiences of communication with hospital pharmacists about their prescribing; instances where they disagreed with or did not implement a hospital pharmacist’s recommendation; and their preferences for communicating with hospital pharmacists about prescribing. Interviews were audiorecorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed thematically.

Results A total of 27 FY1 doctors were interviewed. Findings were categorised into four main themes: (1) nature and context of communication; (2) FY1 doctors’ perceptions of communication with hospital pharmacists; (3) factors influencing FY1 doctors’ decision whether to act on pharmacists’ prescribing recommendations; and (4) suggestions to improve communication with pharmacists. FY1 doctors and hospital pharmacists generally communicated well. FY1 doctors appreciated and frequently acted on pharmacists’ advice yet there was deference to senior medical staff when advice differed. Joint ward rounds, pharmacist-led teaching sessions and a standardised approach to communication were all suggested as ways to improve communication and may increase the likelihood of pharmacists’ recommendations being acted on.

Conclusions FY1 doctors and hospital pharmacists communicated frequently about medication prescribing. Issues occurred when there were differences in professional judgement between senior medical staff and pharmacists but these were usually resolved satisfactorily for the FY1 doctor. Further interventions to improve communication and safe prescribing could involve a multidisciplinary and systems approach.

  • communication
  • junior doctors
  • hospital pharmacists
  • prescribing errors
  • medication safety

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