Naunyn-Schmiedeberg's Archives of Pharmacology

, Volume 392, Issue 1, pp 29–36 | Cite as

Development of perceived pharmacological deficits of medical students and alumni supports claim for continuous and more application-oriented education

  • Wencke Johannsen
  • Bernhard Frings
  • Stefan Herzig
  • Jan MatthesEmail author
Original Article


Medical students’ prescribing competencies are insufficient. So far, surveys focused on final-year students. Knowledge and confidence seem important, but their development during medical studies are unclear. This study investigated whether students perceived deficits in pharmacological knowledge change during medical studies. Alumni were included to look for changes occurring after graduation. Medical students at different stages of their studies were invited to fill in paper-and-pencil (6th-, 8th-, 9th- and 10th-term students) or online questionnaires (final-year students and alumni) regarding their self-assessed deficits in pharmacology. Questionnaires have been developed based on previous interviews with 10th-term students. We differentiated between declarative and application-oriented knowledge. In total, data from 816 participants could be analysed. Self-assessment regarding declarative knowledge changed during medical studies, being more sceptical in terms without pharmacology courses. Of note, self-assessment of application-oriented knowledge remained constantly low throughout, although our pharmacology courses use problem-based learning. Tenth-term students were most sceptical, perhaps influenced by an obligatory, formative, simulation-based, 1-week course, preparing students for their final practical year. Compared to students, alumni were significantly less sceptical regarding application-oriented knowledge. Students’ self-assessment of deficits in pharmacological knowledge changes throughout their studies, presumably in association with pharmacology courses. Overall, students are rather sceptical, especially with regard to application-oriented knowledge. Our data further substantiate the European Association for Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics (EACPT) recommendations to improve pharmacology education throughout the entire medical curriculum, e.g. by providing more training in simulated and clinical environments.


Medical education Pharmacology Clinical pharmacology Knowledge Self-assessment 



The authors thank all the people making the PJ-STArT-Block possible (a project initiated by several institutions of the University of Cologne, viz. Department of Palliative Medicine, Department of Psychosomatics and Psychotherapy, Center of Pharmacology, Office of the Medical Faculty’s Dean of Studies, Kölner Interprofessionelles Skills Lab & Simulationszentrum, Institute for the History of Medicine and Medical Ethics, Institute of Comparative Education and Social Sciences). Alumni data were collected by the University of Cologne (Evaluation of Studies and Teaching | Higher Education Research Institute).

Contribution of authors

JM wrote the paper. SH, WJ and JM designed the study. WJ, BF and JM performed the research. WJ and JM analysed the data.

Funding information

This study was in parts supported financially by the rectorate of the University of Cologne.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wencke Johannsen
    • 1
  • Bernhard Frings
    • 1
  • Stefan Herzig
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jan Matthes
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Center of PharmacologyUniversity of CologneCologneGermany
  2. 2.TH Köln - Technology, Arts, SciencesUniversity of Applied SciencesCologneGermany

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