Reducing medication errors in a surgical residency training program

Kenneth A. Larson, Ernest F. Wiggins, Michael A. Goldfarb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Medication errors contribute to in-hospital morbidity and mortality. Teaching hospitals and the surgical residency training programs they support should take proactive steps to reduce error frequency. In order to accomplish meaningful error reduction, we must first define the scope and nature of the problem. Pharmacists at the Monmouth Medical Center prospectively recorded medication prescribing errors made by surgical residents during 2 years. These data were reviewed to determine the types of medication errors made most frequently by surgical house officers. Seventy-five medication-prescribing errors were made by surgical house staff in the years 2001 and 2002. Thirty-three of these errors involved orders for antibiotic therapy. Errors that could not be directly attributed to knowledge deficits were responsible for 36 of the 75 errors (48%), whereas specific knowledge deficits were responsible for 39 of the 75 errors (52%). Twenty-eight of the 36 errors not directly attributable to knowledge deficits (78%) were made at the postgraduate year one level, whereas only 15 of the 39 knowledge deficit errors (38%) were made at the postgraduate year one level. Though targeted education to address specific knowledge deficits may substantially reduce the occurrence of "knowledge deficit" medication errors within surgical residency training programs, more costly measures such as the implementation of physician computerized order entry will likely be needed to reduce maximally the frequency of medication ordering errors. Many prescribing errors cannot be attributed to specific knowledge deficits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)467-471
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Surgeon
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 1 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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