Background: delirium is underdiagnosed and undertreated. Understanding of delirium among doctors in medical and ICU settings has previously been shown to be low. We hypothesised that junior doctors who had gained experience in geriatrics, neurology or psychiatry may have an increased knowledge of delirium.
Methods: we used data from a large multi-centre study of junior doctors conducted between December 2006 and January 2007 which is, to date, the largest survey of understanding of delirium among junior doctors. The original survey used a questionnaire within which certain key items led to a correct or incorrect answer. Total correct answers were recorded giving a maximum total knowledge score of 17 for each participant. The relationship between total knowledge score achieved on the questionnaire and time since qualification; specialty experience in geriatric medicine, psychiatry and/or neurology and self-reported experience with the Confusion Assessment Method (independent variables) were modelled using linear regression.
Results: around half (53.2%; 399 of 750) of those surveyed stated that they had experience in geriatric medicine. In contrast only 4.1 and 8.0% of respondents had experience in psychiatry and neurology, respectively. Experience in geriatric medicine was significantly associated with a modest increase in correct answers (4.7 versus 4.3 points, P = 0.020). No other variables were significantly associated with better scores.
Conclusion: experience in geriatric medicine leads to a small improvement in understanding of delirium among junior doctors.