Patient safety: Helping medical students understand error in healthcare

Rona Patey, Rhona Flin, Brian H. Cuthbertson, Louise MacDonald, Kathryn Mearns, Jennifer Cleland, David Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

109 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To change the culture of healthcare organisations and improve patient safety, new professionals need to be taught about adverse events and how to trap and mitigate against errors. A literature review did not reveal any patient safety courses in the core undergraduate medical curriculum. Therefore a new module was designed and piloted.

Design: A 5-h evidence-based module on understanding error in healthcare was designed with a preliminary evaluation using self-report questionnaires.

Setting: A UK medical school.

Participants: 110 final year students.

Measurements and main results: Participants completed two questionnaires: the first questionnaire was designed to measure students' self-ratings of knowledge, attitudes and behaviour in relation to patient safety and medical error, and was administered before and approximately 1 year after the module; the second formative questionnaire on the teaching process and how it could be improved was administered after completion of the module.

Conclusions: Before attending the module, the students reported they had little understanding of patient safety matters. One year later, only knowledge and the perceived personal control over safety had improved. The students rated the teaching process highly and found the module valuable. Longitudinal follow-up is required to provide more information on the lasting impact of the module.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)256-259
Number of pages4
JournalMedical Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2007


  • curriculum
  • management


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