Teaching medical students about medical errors and patient safety: evaluation of a required curriculum

Acad Med. 2005 Jun;80(6):600-6. doi: 10.1097/00001888-200506000-00016.


Purpose: To assess the effectiveness of a brief curriculum about patient safety and medical errors with third-year medical students.

Method: From 2000-03, third-year medical students at New York Medical College, Valhalla, New York, were required to participate in a new curriculum on patient safety and medical errors during their family medicine clerkships. Five hundred seventy-two students participated in a four-hour curriculum that included interactive discussion, readings, a videotape session with a standardized patient, and a small-group debriefing facilitated by a family physician. Before and after participating in the curriculum, students were asked to complete questionnaires on self-awareness about patient communication and safety. Curriculum evaluations and follow-up surveys were also distributed. Responses to each statement on the before and after questionnaires were compared using the Wilcoxon signed-rank test for matched data.

Results: Five hundred eleven (89%) students reported that the opportunity to present an error to a patient increased their confidence about discussing this issue with patients, and 537 (94%) students reported that they strongly agreed or agreed that the standardized patient and feedback exercise was a useful learning experience. A total of 535 before and after questionnaires were used in the analysis. A comparison of before and after questionnaire data revealed statistically significant increases in the self-reported awareness of students' strengths and weaknesses in communicating medical errors to patients (p <or= .01).

Conclusion: These findings suggest that awareness about patient safety and medical error can be increased and sustained through the use of an experiential curriculum, and the students rated this as a valuable experience.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Curriculum*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate*
  • Medication Errors*
  • New York
  • Surveys and Questionnaires