Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Emergency Medicine Intern Education for Best Practices in Opioid Prescribing


Introduction: Opioid exposure has been identified as a contributing factor to the opioid epidemic. Reducing patient exposure, by altering heavy opioid prescribing patterns but appropriately addressing patient pain, may represent one approach to combat this public health issue. Our goal was to create and implement an opioid education program for emergency medicine (EM) interns as a means of establishing foundational best practices for safer and more thoughtful prescribing.

Methods: This was a retrospective study at an academic, urban emergency department (ED) comparing ED and discharge opioid prescribing practices over a 12-week time period for two 14-intern EM classes (2016 and 2018) to evaluate an early opioid reduction education program. The education programincluded opioid prescribing guidelines for common ED disease states associated with moderate pain,clinician talking points, and electronic education modules, and was completed by EM interns in July/August 2018. Opioid prescription rates per shift were calculated and opioid prescribing best practices described. We used chi-squared analysis for comparisons between the 2016 and 2018 classes.

Results: Overall, ED and discharge opioid orders prescribed by EM interns were fewer in the 2018 class that received education compared with the 2016 class. ED opioid orders were reduced by 64% (800 vs 291 orders, rate per shift 1.8 vs 0.7 orders) and opioid discharge prescriptions by 75% (279 vs 70 prescriptions, rate per shift 0.7 vs 0.2 prescriptions). The rate of prescribing combination opioid products compared to opioids alone was decreased for ED orders (32% vs 16%, P < 0.01) and discharge prescriptions (91% vs 74%, P < 0.01) between the groups. Also, the median tablets per discharge prescription (14.5 vs 10) and total tablets prescribed (4,305 vs 749) were reduced, P <0.01. There were no differences in selection of opioid product or total morphine milligram equivalents prescribed when an opioid was used.

Conclusion: An opioid reduction education program targeting EM interns was associated with a reduction in opioid prescribing in the ED and at discharge. This may be an effective way to influence early prescribing patterns and best practices of EM interns.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View