Prescribing medicines is the most common patient-level intervention made by doctors in the United Kingdom. However, this is associated with a potential for harm. Whilst dyslexia can bring many strengths, it also impacts reading and writing abilities and therefore has the potential to contribute to errors in the prescribing process if dyslexic doctors are unsupported. This paper explores the experiences of Seb – regarding prescribing and prescribing education – as a dyslexic medical student and doctor. We hope that this might spark more research on this overlooked issue. This is a collaborative, analytic, autoethnographic study within an interpretivist paradigm. Firstly, Seb wrote an autobiographical account; he was then interviewed by Mike. The interview audio-recording was transcribed verbatim and both data sources were thematically analysed. Emerging themes included: learning to prescribe, coping, struggling and support, errors, near misses and handwritten charts, and moving forward. Specific issues included a deficiency in active learning/assessment at an undergraduate level, a lack of support, and potential safety concerns regarding handwritten charts. Electronic prescribing was felt to be a positive step forwards for both safety and accessibility. Our findings suggest that further consideration of specific supports is needed to assist dyslexic trainee doctors in the prescribing of medicines, so as to prevent the clinical environment acting to disadvantage them. They also suggest that we may need to review the ways in which we teach and assess this vital skill at an undergraduate level.


dyslexia, doctor, medical student, prescribing, medical education, collaborative autoethnography

Author Bio(s)

Sebastian C. K. Shaw is a doctor working in the UK. He is also a Lecturer in Medical Education at Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS), teaching in research methods. His main research interests focus on neurodivergence in medical education. Email: S.Shaw2@bsms.ac.uk

Michael Okorie is a Senior Lecturer and Therapeutics Lead at BSMS. He is a clinical academic with a background in clinical pharmacology and therapeutics and has an interest in the teaching, learning and assessment of safe and effective prescribing. He is also Associate Medical Director for Medicines Safety and Prescribing at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals and, as part of his role, is involved in prescribing education in the postgraduate medical setting. Email: M.Okorie@bsms.ac.uk

John L. Anderson is a Principal Lecturer in the Department of Medical Education at BSMS. He is a medical sociologist whose career has mainly involved research and teaching in medical schools. He has an interest in medical education and has published extensively on the subject – including work with SS and others on the impacts of dyslexia and dyspraxia on medical students and junior doctors. For ten years he was the lead in teaching research methods in BSMS. Email: J.Anderson@bsms.ac.uk

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