Patient Safety Medical School Curriculum: Elective Course Outline

Our Patient Safety four-week elective course became increasingly popular as time passed. We found that students chose the course not only because of the online, adult-learning format making it easy to access the course and materials remotely, but also because:

  1. A strong interest in patient safety had been nurtured over their first three years of experience in a medical school with a growing safety culture.
  2. Apprehension of impending July 1st milestone, when students would then be responsible for patients and the related fear of hurting someone.
  3. Ability to do residency interviews and still learn from a distance without taking vacation time to interview. Many students have to do 20-30 interviews today at different programs. They feel it increases their chance for getting into one.

Following is an example of the course expectations and curriculum studied. I will discuss the research questions for each patient safety domain in greater depth in future posts. Please share your thoughts, comments and curriculum ideas!

Course Expectations

  1. Each course day (Monday – Friday) during the four weeks required about 5-8 hours of research, reading and interactive sharing and discussions with fellow students on each patient safety domain of focus.
  2. The patient safety elective used an on-line, adult-learning format. As such, comments, insights, shared learnings and follow-up discussions with fellow students on each patient safety topic was expected, and an important component to the learning process.
  3. Effective teamwork is an important safety quality in any high-risk field, especially healthcare. Each week, students were required to share their research and discovery with others while coming to a consensus on the research questions posed for each patient safety domain. Students posted their responses to the questions so others were able to read and comment on them. Through this sharing of knowledge and interactive discussions, we take our learning to a higher level.
  4. Being an online course, students had the ability to participate in the educational activities from anywhere access to a computer with high-speed online capabilities was available. Students were free to complete coursework at a time convenient to them, as long as they completed and shared their assignments with fellow students by the posted deadlines, and had commented on other student’s conclusions.
  5. Literature review was a vital part of this four-week elective. Students were expected to navigate different literature sites, conduct searches on the research questions posed, and cite journals that were reviewed to support findings using correct citation rules

The four-week course was divided into three components:

  • Days 1-2: Patient safety topic #1
  • Days 3-4: Patient safety topic #2
  • Day 5: Weekly individual reflection

Students were asked to address 1-3 specific research questions around each patient safety topic, and to share 2-3 relevant articles from a literature search that addressed the questions posed. Responses to each question (no less than 400 words) were then posted on the course blackboard site so others could then read and respond to their peers’ conclusions as appropriate. Answers to the questions were required to demonstrate critical thinking and scholarly investigation, and to be taken from peer-reviewed literature and referenced appropriately. The interactive, adult-learning format allowed for discourse via the blackboard around the posted answers. The course provided a forum for each student to gain substantial knowledge in patient safety, as well as prepare students for the responsibilities of residency.

Following are the Patient Safety Domains studied during the four weeks:

  • Week 1: Introductions (Days 1-2), Adverse Event definition (Days 3-4), Reflection (Day 5)
  • Week 2: History of Patient Safety Movement (Days 1-2), Learning From Other High-Risk Industries (Days 3-4), Reflection (Day 5)
  • Week 3: Medical Malpractice; Current Legal Climate (Days 1-2), Open and Honest Communication in Healthcare (Days 3-4), Reflection (Day 5)
  • Week 4: Medication Errors (Days 1-2), Healthcare Informatics (Days 3-4), Reflection (Day 5)

Individual student reflection were assigned for Day 5 of each week, and designed for students to reflect on the week’s discovery and learning. Reflections were due on Saturday, and students were instructed to post comments and reactions to one another’s posts. The reflections addressed the following questions:

  1. How would you apply what you have learned this week to your professional life?
  2. What are the concepts that made you think differently than before and why?
  3. What’s your greatest “take away” learning from this week? Why?
  4. What unanswered questions remain?
  5. Any additional comments and thoughts?

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