6 areas in which interns feel unprepared for hospital work

medical education

By Michael Woodhead

3 Dec 2019

Interns believe that medical school prepares them well for core clinical skills but leaves them  unprepared for roles such as prescribing, managing of bullying and reporting errors.

Results from an anonymous survey carried out by the Medical Board of Australia in May 2019 found that most interns (74%) thought medical school had given them core clinical skills, such as taking a history and examining patients, and patient-related skills such as communication.

Interns also rated medical schools highly for preparing in other skills such as using handbooks and guidelines, preventing cross-infection, IV cannulation and participation in multi-disciplinary teams.

However, interns had a low perceived preparedness to:

  1. Prescribe drugs
  2. Provide nutritional care
  3. Report and deal with error and safety incidents
  4. Understand some parts of hospital systems and self-management skills
  5. Seek support for psychological distress, bullying and harassment
  6. Raise concerns about colleagues who were distressed or not performing

When asked with the benefit of hindsight what could be done to improve preparedness for prescribing, interns suggestions included practical prescribing exercises such as mock medical charting, having a pharmacist available in the ward, and having alternative learning options such as NPS online prescribing modules But some interns said they found that varying and inconsistent prescribing systems (eg. both paper-based and electronic) made it difficult to prepare for prescribing in the workplace.

In its survey report the Medical Board said the areas of unpreparedness were consistent with those highlighted in previous intern surveys, but there had been improvements.

“For example, the proportion of respondents feeling either ‘Not at all prepared’ or ‘Poorly prepared’ to raise concerns about bullying or harassment decreased from 33% in 2017 to 24% in 2019.”

It said the results would be passed on to medical schools and people involved in medical education to help keep improving intern preparedness.

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