Changing conversations: teaching safety and quality in residency training

Acad Med. 2008 Nov;83(11):1080-7. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31818927f8.


Improving patient safety and quality in health care is one of medicine's most pressing challenges. Residency training programs have a unique opportunity to meet this challenge by training physicians in the science and methods of patient safety and quality improvement (QI).With support from the Health Resources and Services Administration, the authors developed an innovative, longitudinal, experiential curriculum in patient safety and QI for internal medicine residents at the University of Virginia. This two-year curriculum teaches the critical concepts and skills of patient safety and QI: systems thinking and human factors analysis, root cause analysis (RCA), and process mapping. Residents apply these skills in a series of QI and patient safety projects. The constructivist educational model creates a learning environment that actively engages residents in improving the quality and safety of their medical practice.Between 2003 and 2005, 38 residents completed RCAs of adverse events. The RCAs identified causes and proposed useful interventions that have produced important care improvements. Qualitative analysis demonstrates that the curriculum shifted residents' thinking about patient safety to a systems-based approach. Residents completed 237 outcome assessments during three years. Results indicate that seminars met predefined learning objectives and were interactive and enjoyable. Residents strongly believe they gained important skills in all domains.The challenge to improve quality and safety in health care requires physicians to learn new knowledge and skills. Graduate medical education can equip new physicians with the skills necessary to lead the movement to safer and better quality of care for all patients.This article is part of a theme issue of Academic Medicine on the Title VII health professions training programs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence
  • Competency-Based Education
  • Curriculum*
  • Education, Medical, Graduate / economics
  • Education, Medical, Graduate / methods*
  • Humans
  • Internal Medicine / education*
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Problem-Based Learning
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care*
  • Risk Management
  • Safety
  • United States
  • United States Health Resources and Services Administration / economics
  • Virginia