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Republished: Patients teaching patient safety: the challenge of turning negative patient experiences into positive learning opportunities
  1. Antonia S Stang1,
  2. Brian M Wong2
  1. 1Departments of Pediatrics and Community Health Sciences, University of Calgary, Alberta Children's Hospital Research Institute, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  2. 2Department of Medicine, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Centre for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety (C-QuIPS), University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Brian M Wong, Department of Medicine, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, University of Toronto, 2075 Bayview Avenue, Room H466, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4N 3M5; BrianM.Wong{at}

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Educators have long relied on the use of patient cases to illustrate key patient safety concepts to learners.1–3 These efforts engage clinician learners by harnessing the tradition of clinically based educational fora, such as morbidity and mortality rounds and other such case conferences. Teaching about the systems approach to patient safety in the context of compelling cases—a patient taken for someone else's invasive cardiology procedure, or a patient who died after her arterial line was flushed with insulin instead of heparin1 ,4—will have more impact than just outlining the Swiss cheese model of accident causation and describing the human factors perspective in investigating critical incidents.

Engaging as these case-based approaches to teaching patient safety may be, they tend to focus on the more ‘technical’ aspects of patient safety such as teamwork and communication, principles of human factors engineering or the different stages of the medication management process in which errors can arise. Lost in such learning sometimes is the patient perspective, the voice that emphasises the importance of keeping the patients and families central to conversations about patient safety. More recently, published accounts of patient and provider stories relate their personal experiences with patient safety incidents.5–7 However, having actual patients tell their stories and interact directly with learners is a novel educational approach for patient safety training that warrants consideration for several important reasons.

Engaging patients in teaching patient safety: an appealing prospect

First, there is an obvious appeal to involving patients and families in health professions education because they provide an authentic perspective on avoidable harm resulting from patient safety incidents. Beyond that however, their involvement may serve to address some important challenges that educators face when implementing a patient safety educational programme. Some programmes struggle to make leaning about patient safety engaging or interesting, or find that learners fail to see the …

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  • This is a reprint of a paper that first appeared in BMJ Qual Saf, 2015, volume 24, pages 4–6.

  • Contributors ASS and BMW: Conception, drafting and revision of article, final approval of version to be published.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.