What is the experience of psychiatry residents learning to prescribe? A qualitative research inquiry

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry

Publication Date


Document Type



Medical Education | Mental and Social Health | Psychiatry | Psychiatry and Psychology


BACKGROUND: Understanding how psychiatry residents learn to prescribe is important for the future of psychiatry. Prescribing is a complicated act that involves much more than signing a prescription. During residency, psychiatrists develop seminal attitudes and habits about prescribing. There have been no published studies focusing on psychiatry residents' experience when learning to prescribe.

AIMS: Qualitative methodology lends itself to a deep exploration of the process of learning how to prescribe. We undertook a qualitative study questioning psychiatry residents about their prescribing.

METHODS: Psychiatry residents were recruited from three residency programs and focus groups were conducted at each program. The focus groups were audiotaped and transcribed by a professional service. Thematic analysis was used to analyze the data and triangulation to increase the rigor of the study.

RESULTS: A total of 12 residents participated. Three themes were identified concerning identity development as a psychiatrist, uncertainty and fear about prescribing, and the centrality of collaborating with the patient during the prescribing process.

CONCLUSION: Psychiatry residents struggle with significant anxiety and frustration in their experience of learning to prescribe, suggesting a place for mentors and supervisors to focus.


Graduate medical education, psychopharmacology, qualitative research

DOI of Published Version



J Ment Health. 2016;25(2):122-5. Oct 15. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of mental health (Abingdon, England)

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID