New program getting resident physicians up to speed on quality improvement, patient safety in Saskatoon Health Region

Med students chatting_cropped

“Whenever a doctor cannot do good, he must be kept from doing harm.” – Hippocrates, 460-370 BC

With its Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Training program, Saskatoon Health Region is equipping resident physicians to both do good and prevent harm. This new program orients residents to the objectives of quality improvement, with a big emphasis on safety.

The Health Quality Council (HQC) was part of a working group that created the curriculum and developed course materials for the program. Developing the curriculum was a great group effort, according to Shari Furniss, Director, Learning and Development at HQC.

“We were fortunate to have many different perspectives on the team, which really helped in creating a unique learning experience for participants,” says Furniss. “Everyone came with the same goal – how can we make this program the best possible for our residents? We challenged ourselves to think of innovative ways to achieve the program learning objectives.”

A key perspective was that of patients and families. Caroline Westman, an advisor with the Region, provided insight during the curriculum development to ensure that the patient and family perspective was included. Westman continues to share her personal experiences with the provincial health system; she served as her husband Brian’s advocate when he was hospitalized for 12 weeks in 2013.

Westman believes it’s important to make sure that the philosophy of patient- and family- centered care is a familiar concept to the residents. “We get excited about new lab tests, new imaging technology and so on, but it’s time to change our collective mindset. The knowledge and insight that patients and families have with regards to their own case is an important tool as well. All too often this is a resource that is overlooked and undervalued in health care settings.”

The time has come to teach the significant value of the patient and family voice – as part of the health care team – to help prevent errors and improve patient outcomes.” – Caroline Westman, patient and family advisor

Saskatoon Health Region’s Dr. Paul Babyn (Head of the Department of Medical Imaging, University of Saskatchewan) and Angie Palen (Kaizen Specialist) were co-leads for the program. Learning objectives were grouped into three central categories: patient safety culture, improving patient safety, and quality improvement.

Dr. Heather Ward, Program Director of General Internal Medicine, works in the Region and participated on the working group that developed the curriculum. Dr. Ward provides the perspective of those who teach resident physicians, as well as her knowledge of the accreditation standards of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

“Our residents are about to enter the profession so they are poised to be the future leaders of quality improvement and patient safety in Saskatchewan’s health system,” says Dr. Ward. “It’s also fantastic to have patient and family advisors involved in the curriculum development – their input on patient safety is essential.”

“While residents have a lot of classroom content to absorb, a curriculum like this nicely encapsulates vital quality improvement and safety concepts that they will then be able to use in day-to-day practice,” adds Dr. Ward.

Participants also have a hands-on improvement project where they apply learned concepts to their own work. It’s a personal project – something small that is meaningful and directly relates to the resident’s work. Examples include medication reconciliation and hand hygiene.

In January 2016, a pilot test of the program began with residents in Medical Imaging. Under the direction of Dr. Babyn, the curriculum is currently underway and being augmented with additional radiology-specific teaching. With some tweaking to reflect the participants’ prior training and experiences, initial feedback from the residents has been positive.


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