Teaching quality improvement and patient safety to trainees: a systematic review

Acad Med. 2010 Sep;85(9):1425-39. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181e2d0c6.


Purpose: To systematically review published quality improvement (QI) and patient safety (PS) curricula for medical students and/or residents to (1) determine educational content and teaching methods, (2) assess learning outcomes achieved, and (3) identify factors promoting or hindering curricular implementation.

Method: Data sources included Medline (to January 2009), EMBASE, HealthSTAR, and article bibliographies. Studies selected reported curricula outlining specific educational content and teaching format. For articles with an evaluative component, the authors abstracted methodological features, such as study design. For all articles, they conducted a thematic analysis to identify factors influencing successful implementation of the included curricula.

Results: Of 41 curricula that met the authors' criteria, 14 targeted medical students, 24 targeted residents, and 3 targeted both. Common educational content included continuous QI, root cause analysis, and systems thinking. Among 27 reports that included an evaluation, curricula were generally well accepted. Most curricula demonstrated improved knowledge. Thirteen studies (32%) successfully implemented local changes in care delivery, and seven (17%) significantly improved target processes of care. Factors that affected the successful curricular implementation included having sufficient numbers of faculty familiar with QI and PS content, addressing competing educational demands, and ensuring learners' buy-in and enthusiasm. Participants in some curricula also commented on discrepancies between curricular material and local institutional practice or culture.

Conclusions: QI and PS curricula that target trainees usually improve learners' knowledge and frequently result in changes in clinical processes. However, successfully implementing such curricula requires attention to a number of learner, faculty, and organizational factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence*
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical / methods*
  • Humans
  • Safety Management*
  • Teaching*
  • Total Quality Management*