Toolkit for prescriptions just what the young doctors ordered

Prescribing medicine involves more than just writing a script, and junior doctors and medical practitioners in Australia lack confidence in doing so, research suggests.

To help students gain the confidence required, researchers from four universities have developed a toolkit for universities to teach prescribing skills.

The project lead, pharmacist Lynda Cardiff of QUT's School of Clinical Sciences, said they found a "lack of confidence" across all 10 prescribing professions.

"There's clear evidence our junior doctors feel a little bit frightened by the task of prescribing, and it was interesting that we were also able to observe that in professions other than medicine," she said.

"There's clearly a need for the curriculum to better support our students and better prepare our students to prescribe."

The researchers, from QUT, the University of Western Australia, The University of Sydney and James Cook University, developed the Prescribing Assessment Toolkit after studying the current teaching and assessment practices of 10 health professions, including pharmacy, medicine, dentistry, nurse practitioner and optometry.

"Many people think of prescribing as the writing of the prescription, but there is a lot that goes into it before you get to that point," Ms Cardiff said.

"Prescribing is really complicated, and it's the kind of thing that requires our students to not only have a required level of knowledge and a required ability to do certain skills such as assessing your patient, but you need to then pull all that together in the context of this particular patient right now.

"That's incredibly challenging, particularly if you've perhaps learnt those things in silos, but you've not had the opportunity to pull them together."

Ms Cardiff said the lack of practice students had at pulling the skills together meant students became "quite unconfident".

"That's obviously not the way to tackle a complicated task: if you're unconfident, it just puts you at risk to start with," she said.

The sheer amount of medications available today was a factor that made prescriptions complicated for students and junior medical practitioners.

"It's important for any health professional to be aware of the drugs they might use in a particular situation, and that's very challenging for any health professional to keep across all of those new drugs," Ms Cardiff said.

She said Australia's ageing population also complicated the process of prescribing.

"Our patients often have multiple diseases for which they take multiple medicines, and pulling all of those together and being aware of the risks associated with adding another drug into that mix becomes very challenging for any profession."

Given the complexities of prescribing drugs, Ms Cardiff said she hoped the toolkit - which was already making inroads at the four universities that took part in the research - could help students across the country.

This story Toolkit for prescriptions just what the young doctors ordered first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.