Empowering medical and nursing students in the Euregio Meuse-Rhine

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Hasselt University has developed a data-driven approach to create patient safety education tailored to the needs of each target group. Medical students in Hasselt University and nursing students in University College Leuven-Limburg were empowered in their patient safety competences during hands-on sessions on patient safety.

Our repeated cross-sectional study on self-perceived patient safety competences in medical and nursing students demonstrated that confidence with regard to teamwork skills is lacking in two out of three students. In spite of the blame-free culture, which has been advocated by patient safety experts for several decades, 70% of students still fear disciplinary action after making a serious error. Therefore it is important for students to realise that errors (can) occur every day, and that it is vital to disclose adverse events and to seize the opportunity to turn them into a learning opportunity.

Hasselt University was invited to empower medical and nursing students in their patient safety competences. In both cases we used a data-driven approach to create a patient safety curriculum. Based on the findings of the H-PEPPS results of the respective institutions, we analysed the strengths and weaknesses of existing curricula to avoid redundancy and overlap with the existing courses. This also enabled us to focus on these aspects of patient safety for which students’ self-efficacy tended to be low. Additionally, we included findings from our interviews with teachers and professors regarding the operationalisation of patient safety in health professional education. These results showed that patient safety is often implicitly embedded in medical and nursing education. By making patient safety concepts explicit we created an experience for students to visualise and connect the different aspects of patient safety. “By using a constructivist approach, students will learn in cooperation with their fellow students”, says prof. dr. Bergs. “For example, when students analyse an adverse event, they experience first-hand what system failure means and how contributory factors play an important role in accident causation. No lecture can ever have the same learning effect.”

Future physicians

Mid-September 2019, the first World Day of Patient Safety was celebrated. In Hasselt University, this day was honoured accordingly, by organising a patient safety training day for all medical students in the 2nd bachelor.

Students were challenged in several fields of patient safety by participating in (inter)active workshops on medication safety, infection prevention, incident analysis, and (interprofessional) communication & handover.

“The patient safety training met my expectations. I was thaught a structure for interdisciplinary communication and infection prevention that I can very well apply in practice” (medical student)

Future nurses

In the beginning of 2020, we had the opportunity to empower nursing students. They participated in workshops on active failures and contributory factors.  Additionally, the nursing students analysed a patient safety incident and took part in a serious game about the importance of leadership for effective teamwork. Prof. dr. Bergs: “By providing tools to improve their (interdisciplinary) communication skills, students will feel more confident to speak up about safety concerns during clinical placement.

“I have learned so much in this patient safety training,
I realise now that patient safety is so much
more than avoiding medication errors” (nursing student)