Objective: Patient safety has emerged as a distinct health care discipline and an undergraduate programme on patient safety is being introduced at the authors' institution. The present study aimed to assess medical students' perceptions and knowledge on patient safety issues.
Design: A self-administered voluntary questionnaire survey.
Setting: Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.
Participants: A total of 130 fourth-year medical students.
Main outcome measures: Students' baseline perceptions and knowledge on patient safety issues.
Results: The majority of students agreed that medical errors were inevitable but over 25% opined that "competent physicians do not make errors". The majority disapproved the practice of non-disclosure of error; whilst 6% would not address 'near-miss' events, and almost 10% did not support an active reporting system. Nearly half of the students were neutral on the notion that uncertainty should not be tolerated in patient care, and over 80% agreed that the most effective strategy to prevent error was "to work harder and be more careful". A knowledge gap in patient safety issues existed. Over 80% of students supported the introduction of our new undergraduate programme.
Conclusion: Medical students were aware of medical errors being an inevitable barrier between intended 'best care' and what was actually provided to patients. Students appeared to lack the appreciation of non-physician-based causes of errors, and the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to the management of incidents. A formal curriculum on patient safety is urgently needed in this locality, and such an initiative was supported by the medical students who were surveyed.