Patient Safety Medical School Curriculum: The Final Piece

The final component of the four-year patient safety medical school curriculum we put in place at UIMC was the patient safety fourth-year elective. This was the capstone of the program so to speak, and was my favorite course to teach. When we first created this elective five years ago, it was offered as a two-week classroom experience, and continued to build upon the first three years of patient safety education integrated into the medical curriculum. As with most classroom experiences, this educational experience had some limitations. The number of students had to be capped at 12-14 due to the small group interactive nature of the case-based activities. Faculty had to be on campus, though we did experiment with Skype and other types of distance learning applications. And the number of times the elective could be offered each year had to be limited due to time restraints on faculty and classrooms.

Because of continued student interest, we decided to move the patient safety elective to an online format using Blackboard as the web-based educational portal. We used the opportunity to extend the course to four weeks, allowing for greater depth of learning in the eight chosen safety domains that had been previously covered in the 10 days of classroom work. Using this online approach also allowed us to change our educational approach, and we were able to apply the same adult learning, student-centered model utilized in our Masters in Patient Safety Leadership program. This approach had been very successful with our Masters students and, as many who have used this educational format already appreciate, takes the student learning to a higher level. Students do the research and discovery, come to conclusions based on the research questions given to them, and engage in interactive discussions by sharing what they have learned.

Faculty are no longer simply teachers…but facilitators who push the learning to higher levels by posing additional questions, playing “devil’s advocate” or, many times, just reaffirming the learning objectives so the students take the important messages with them before moving on to the next patient safety domain.  In future posts, I will share the elective outline, safety domains, learning objectives from a domain or two, and the research questions given to the students along with some of the experiences, reflections and take-aways of running a patient safety elective for young learners.


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