Ongoing learning is an important part of healthcare, with many specialties and subspecialties continuously emerging. Patient safety officers occasionally ask about educational opportunities outside of those offered by the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority. Patient safety is a relatively new specialty that has historically had limited opportunities to demonstrate advanced knowledge. However, as the science behind patient safety matures, more opportunities are available for advanced education and certification in the field.
For those who are not ready to commit to a full graduate program, certificate programs are one option. Three universities offer certificate programs in patient safety. Generally, these credits can later be applied toward graduate degrees from the same program.
- Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois, offers a 12-month Certificate Program in Healthcare Quality and Patient Safety consisting of five courses. Introduction to Healthcare Quality and Introduction to Patient Safety are completed on-site during the first two weeks. An independent study is completed over a six-month period, and Advanced Healthcare Quality and Advanced Patient Safety are taken on-site at the end of the program.1
- Thomas Jefferson University’s Jefferson School of Population Health in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, also offers a certificate program in healthcare quality and patient safety. This program consists of six three-credit-hour courses completed online over the course of one to two years. Required courses are U.S. Healthcare Delivery and Organization, Health Law and Regulatory Issues, Policy and Regulatory Issues in Healthcare, Organizational Behavior and Change in Healthcare, Health Informatics, and Quality and Safety Tools and Methods.2
- Regis University in Denver, Colorado, offers a certificate program in healthcare quality and patient safety as well. Theirs is a 15-credit-hour program, but additional classes may be required prior to enrollment depending on the professional and educational background of the applicant.3
- A certificate in patient safety, error science, and full disclosure is available from the University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Medicine. This program is offered online and can be completed in six months. It requires completion of 12 credit hours from three courses: Patient Safety and Quality Care Improvement; Error Science, Risk, and Disclosure; and Communication and Collaboration.4
Advanced degrees are required for many upper-level jobs and demonstrate a high level of knowledge in a specific area. A master of science in healthcare quality and patient safety (MS-HQS) is one option for obtaining an advanced degree in the field of patient safety. Both Northwestern University and Thomas Jefferson University offer this degree.
- Northwestern University’s program is completed over 20 months as a combination of independent study and on-site “intensive” courses. The courses are the same as the ones for the certificate program with the addition of Introduction to Health Management, Fundamental Methods for Quality and Safety, the Business of Quality and Safety Improvement, and a capstone project.5
- Thomas Jefferson University’s Jefferson School of Population Health offers 24-month and 48-month options to obtain a MS-HQS. Courses are completed online; however, students are required to spend one week on campus at the end of the program. In addition to a capstone project, the courses Research and Evaluation Methods for Quality and Safety Improvement, Economic Analysis in Healthcare, Quality and Safety Measurement and Outcomes Analysis, and Advanced Applications of Healthcare Quality and Safety Methods in Clinical Settings are required.6
- The University of Illinois at Chicago offers a master of science in patient safety leadership. This program can be completed in 18 months and is conducted online with a five-day residency at the end of the program. In addition to the courses mentioned for the certificate program, five courses and a capstone project are required.4
New in 2012 is an opportunity to become a certified professional in patient safety (CPPS). The CPPS credential is offered by the American Society of Professionals in Patient Safety at the National Patient Safety Foundation. This credential is earned by taking a test to exhibit proficiency in patient safety knowledge and application. The test must be retaken every three years to maintain use of the credential. The test focuses on six areas of competency: culture, leadership, risk identification and analysis, data management and system design, mitigation of risk, and external influences on patient safety.7
Several options are available to expand patient safety knowledge. Fellowships are offered by several patient safety organizations, and many professional organizations offer education related to patient safety within their specialty. Examples include the following:
- The American Hospital Association and the National Patient Safety Foundation cosponsor the Comprehensive Patient Safety Leadership Fellowship. This yearlong fellowship program requires completion of a project and participation in on-site and online learning sessions.8
- The Institute for Healthcare Improvement offers a one-year fellowship at its office in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This requires temporary relocation for those not currently living in the area.9
- The Institute for Safe Medication Practices offers a more specialized fellowship in medication safety. This is also a yearlong program that requires working from the institute’s offices in Horsham, Pennsylvania.10
Continuing education is necessary to stay ahead of the curve in this very specialized area. This list of programs is not intended to be all-inclusive but rather a sampling of the options available to individuals interested in pursuing more education in the emerging field of patient safety.
Certified Board for Professionals in Patient Safety (CBPPS): about certification [website]. [cited 2012 Apr 13]. CBPPS. Available from Internet:http://cbpps.org