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VHA National Center for Patient Safety

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Patient Safety Curriculum for Residents: Graduate Medical Education

NCPS began developing patient safety curriculum in the summer of 2002 with a group of volunteers from across the country, piloting and modifying content and methods.Clinicians sit at a table discussing an medical issue. 

The academicians and clinicians collaborated to improve the program via electronic communication and teleconferences, as well as attending “a summit meeting” in 2003.

Graduate medical education resident and faculty development workshops have been offered since 2003 in one- two- or three-day formats.

Originally, the workshops were done regionally six times a year. Workshops are currently being held by invitation, customizing format and content to the inviting institution and university-affiliated residency (and medical school) programs.

For instance, the first day of a workshop might be devoted to faculty development. The second to breakout sessions, working directly with residents. High fidelity simulation scenarios are also available and can offer powerful case-based immersive learning.


  • Residents are active agents of change towards systems and quality approach; away from blame and train model.
  • Residents incorporate understanding of human performance and high reliability organizations into patient care and patient safety activities.
  • VAs help affiliated residency programs provide great education (as outlined in the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education core competencies)
  • Deliberate practice of the ACGME core competencies of systems-based practice; practice-based learning and improvement; and interpersonal communication skills are cornerstones of the program
  • Giving the next generation of physicians the patient safety skills to fulfill the promise of the future vision of healthcare as put forth in the Institute of Medicine's To Err is Human and Crossing the Quality Chasm


  • Understand the scope and gravity of patient safety events (adverse events and close calls)
  • Know theoretical & practical reasons why "blame, shame, and re-train" approaches fail
  • Become familiar with the basics of safety and human factors engineering
  • Understand the importance of discovering root causes & contributing factors in order to develop effective substantive interventions
  • Become familiar with human factors engineering techniques that determine root causes and how this is crucial to the design and implementation of strong actions
  • Understand major categories of patient safety interventions, as well as the limitations and pitfalls of automation as a countermeasure

Exposing residents to patient safety concepts is particularly significant to health care in the United States that NCPS conduct this effort at the VA:

  • Each year, more than 80,000 health professionals are trained in VA medical centers.
  • Nationally, more than half of the physicians practicing today had some of their professional education while in the VA health care system.

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Patient Safety Curriculum