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Paramedics’ Ability to Perform Drug Calculations

  • Author(s): Eastwood, Kathyrn J
  • Boyle, Mal J
  • Williams, Brett
  • et al.
Abstract

Background: The ability to perform drug calculations accurately is imperative to patient safety. Research into paramedics’ drug calculation abilities was first published in 2000 and for nurses’ abilities the research dates back to the late 1930s. Yet, there have been no studies investigating an undergraduate paramedic student’s ability to perform drug or basic mathematical calculations. The objective of this study was to review the literature and determine the ability of undergraduate and qualified paramedics to perform drug calculations.

Methods: A search of the prehospital-related electronic databases was undertaken using the Ovid and EMBASE systems available through the Monash University Library. Databases searched included the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, CINAHL, JSTOR, EMBASE and Google Scholar, from their beginning until the end of August 2009. We reviewed references from articles retrieved.

Results: The electronic database search located 1,154 articles for review. Six additional articles were identified from reference lists of retrieved articles. Of these, 59 were considered relevant. After reviewing the 59 articles only three met the inclusion criteria. All articles noted some level of mathematical deficiencies amongst their subjects.

Conclusions: This study identified only three articles. Results from these limited studies indicate a significant lack of mathematical proficiency amongst the paramedics sampled. A need exists to identify if undergraduate paramedic students are capable of performing the required drug calculations in a non-clinical setting.

[WestJEM. 2009;10:240-243.]

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