Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

© The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy. Background: Antimicrobial resistance has led to widespread implementation of interventions for appropriate prescribing. However, such interventions are often adopted without an adequate understanding of the challenges facing doctors-in-training as key prescribers. Methods: The review followed a realist, theory-driven approach to synthesizing qualitative, quantitative and mixed-methods literature. Consistent with realist review quality standards, articles retrieved from electronic databases were systematically screened and analysed to elicit explanations of antimicrobial prescribing behaviours. These explanations were consolidated into a programme theory drawing on social science and learning theory, and shaped though input from patients and practitioners. Results: By synthesizing data from 131 articles, the review highlights the complex social and professional dynamics underlying antimicrobial prescribing decisions of doctors-in-training. The analysis shows how doctors-intraining often operate within challenging contexts (hierarchical relationships, powerful prescribing norms, unclear roles and responsibilities, implicit expectations about knowledge levels, uncertainty about application of knowledge in practice) where they prioritize particular responses (fear of criticism and individual responsibility, managing one's reputation and position in the team, appearing competent). These complex dynamics explain how and why doctors-in-training decide to: (i) follow senior clinicians' prescribing habits; (ii) take (or not) into account prescribing aids, advice from other health professionals or patient expectations; and (iii) ask questions or challenge decisions. This increased understanding allows for targeted tailoring, design and implementation of antimicrobial prescribing interventions. Conclusions: This review contributes to a better understanding of how antimicrobial prescribing interventions for doctors-in-training can be embedded more successfully in the hierarchical and inter-professional dynamics of different healthcare settings.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy

Publication Date





2418 - 2430