Exploring medical and nursing students' perceptions about a patient safety course: A qualitative study

Document Type



Medical College Pakistan; Surgery; School of Nursing and Midwifery, Pakistan; General Surgery; Anaesthesia


Background: Educating health professionals on patient safety can potentially reduce healthcare-associated harm. Patient safety courses have been incorporated into medical and nursing curricula in many high-income countries and their impact has been demonstrated in the literature through objective assessments. This study aimed to explore student perceptions about a patient safety course to assess its influence on aspiring health professionals at a personal level as well as to explore differences in areas of focus between medical and nursing students.
Methods: A dedicated patient safety course was introduced for year III medical and year II and IV nursing students at the Aga Khan University (2021-2022). As part of a post-course assessment, 577 participating students (184 medical and 393 nursing) wrote reflections on the course, detailing its influence on them. These free-text responses were thematically analyzed using NVivo.
Results: The findings revealed five major themes: acquired skills (clinical, interpersonal), understanding of medical errors (increased awareness, prevention and reduction, responding to errors), personal experiences with patient safety issues, impact of course (changed perceptions, professional integrity, need for similar sessions, importance of the topic) and course feedback (format, preparation for clinical years, suggestions). Students reported a lack of baseline awareness regarding the frequency and consequences of medical errors. After the course, medical students reported a perceptional shift in favor of systems thinking regarding error causality, and nursing students focused on human factors and error prevention. The interactive course format involving scenario-based learning was deemed beneficial in terms of increasing awareness, imparting relevant clinical and interpersonal skills, and changing perspectives on patient safety.
Conclusions: Student perspectives illustrate the benefits of an early introduction of dedicated courses in imparting patient safety education to aspiring health professionals. Students reported a lack of baseline awareness of essential patient safety concepts, highlighting gaps in the existing curricula. This study can help provide an impetus for incorporating patient safety as a core component in medical and nursing curricula nationally and across the region. Additionally, patient safety courses can be tailored to emphasize areas identified as gaps among each professional group, and interprofessional education can be employed for shared learning. The authors further recommend conducting longitudinal studies to assess the long-term impact of such courses.


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Publication (Name of Journal)

BMC Medical Education