Learning to prescribe through co-working: junior doctors, pharmacists and consultants
Context: Learning to prescribe is challenging for junior doctors. Significant efforts have been made to improve prescribing education, especially in view of the high rates of prescribing errors made by junior doctors. However, considerations of educational options often overlook the fact that learning to prescribe and prescribing practices rely on practice-based interactions with informed practitioners, such as pharmacists and consultants. Pharmacists have long made important contributions to developing prescribing capacities. Objectives: The present study examines the potential of everyday co-working between junior doctors and pharmacists, in conjunction with consultants, as an accessible means of developing effective prescribing practices. Methods: A qualitative interview study was conducted in an Australian tertiary hospital using thematic analysis to explore junior doctors’, pharmacists’ and consultants’ perspectives on how co-working supports learning to prescribe in an acute tertiary hospital setting. Participants included 34 practitioners, comprising junior doctors (n = 11), consultants (n = 10) and pharmacists (n = 13). The thematic analysis was informed by workplace learning theory. Results: Learning to prescribe was found to be a highly interdependent process. In particular, junior doctors were dependent on co-working with consultants and pharmacists. Three interrelated themes related to co-working and learning to prescribe in the workplace were identified: (i) prescribing readiness of junior doctors; (ii) need for guidance, and (iii) the challenges of pharmacists co-working as outsiders. Conclusions: Co-working with pharmacists and consultants contributes positively to junior doctors’ prescribing practices. However, co-working is complex and is influenced by differing understandings of prescribing practices. These insights assist in informing how co-working can be enacted routinely in hospital settings to promote safe and effective prescribing practices. Consideration should be given to when and how co-working between junior doctors and pharmacists is initiated, including during medical school. In clinical settings, strategies such as having pharmacists attend ward rounds and adopt a role of learning facilitation rather than error identification may augment everyday opportunities for co-working and learning.
Education not elsewhere classified