An Education Intervention to Raise Awareness Reduces Self-reported Opioid Overprescribing by Plastic Surgery Residents

Rachel Skladman, Grace C. Keane, David Grant, Susan E. MacKinnon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose The aim of this study was to understand how opioid prescribing practices of plastic surgery residents changed after instituting opioid prescribing education (OPE) interventions. Methods Plastic surgery residents at a single academic institution completed a survey (fall 2017) assessing opioid prescribing following 8 common procedures. The Division then completed 3 multidisciplinary OPE interventions over 2.5 years, which provided passive learning to raise awareness without top-down prescribing guidelines. Residents were resurveyed at 2 time points after the interventions (fall 2018 and spring 2020). The primary outcome measure was self-reported morphine milligram equivalents prescribed. Results Survey response rates were 84% to 100%. Preintervention opioid prescriptions were characterized by high variability and absolute doses for all procedures. We observed statistically significant decreases in prescribed doses for most procedures at 9 months post intervention and further decreases at 2.5 years. In the most recently surveyed cohort, only 3 of 16 residents (18.8%) had OPE before residency, whereas 12 of 16 residents (75.0%) participated in OPE during residency. Eighty-eight percent of respondents "always"(8/16, 50%) or "usually"(6/16, 38%) considered the opioid epidemic when prescribing opioids, suggesting an improved prescribing culture. Barriers to better prescribing included duplicate prescriptions/accessing state-run prescription drug monitoring programs (75.0%), remote prescribing (75%), providing refills (56%), and prescribing opioids for patients on chronic opioid therapy (56%). Conclusion This prospective cohort study demonstrates that a simple multidisciplinary, didactic OPE intervention that aimed to increase residents' awareness has the potential to reduce self-reported opioid prescribing and sustain prescribing practices over many years. We identify persistent barriers facing our resident prescribers today, enabling more opioid educational interventions in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)600-609
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of Plastic Surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2022


  • opioid education
  • opioid prescribing patterns


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