CONHI Offers Unique Course on Human Factors in Patient Safety

Tuesday, Jun 01, 2021

 Dr. Yan Xiao

“We’re not standing around still, repeating the same thing for 30 years. New generations of nurses have different inspirations, and nurses are taking on the role of leading quality and safety improvement in hospitals,” shared Dr. Yan Xiao, professor in Nursing in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

Quality and safety are pivotal in the health care profession, and yet for many years formalized courses and in-depth professional training into such topics have been a missing link. Thanks to a unique course developed by patient safety expert Dr. Yan Xiao and his colleagues, students can now gain more experience into how to provide the safest and highest quality of care to patients.

“Health care is constantly evolving, and this course is an example how our College innovates to meet those new demands, including learning about human factors in order to be more patient-centered and to be effective patient safety champions,” said Dr. Xiao. “We’ve set out to make a difference and help our students be change agents.” The course is one of the first credited undergraduate courses on human factors offered in health professional schools.

CONHI’s course introduces students to the basics of patient safety and human factors, and the principle of patient safety improvement at the individual, team and organizational levels. They utilize case studies to explore ways to reduce medical errors, the third leading cause of deaths, and to address human factors involved in over 80 percent of adverse events in a health care setting.

“I didn't know what this class [had] to offer when I enrolled. [It] proved to be very vital in my career as a nurse. By pointing out what other things to consider when an error occurs, other than an individual, was a huge eye opener that I had in this class…I believe that this course made me make significant changes in my career and also, I have a different perspective when an error occurs. I am now aware of how design can fail you, how gaps in communication can be harmful to patients, and how peer support of the other victim is very important,” shared Charles Gathathi, RN to BSN student.

The course has finished its third year of offerings, with over 1,200 students completing this online course. Xiao hopes to expand to non-RN students to reach even more students in the coming semesters. The course is taught by Xiao and the success of the course he credits to the team of coaches who support students beyond the traditional teaching assistant. They interact with students on a minute-to-minute basis and are professionals with years of experience in health care.

Julie SnowJulie Snow is one such academic coach for this course, with 30 years of professional clinical nursing experiences. In the past she has served in surgical and pediatric nursing, nurse education, including over 11 years as an academic coach. She obtained a Master of Science in nursing education at Texas Tech Health Science Center School of Nursing in 2009 and became interested in sharing her nursing background with students so they could improve the quality of patient care. “You can’t get away from quality, safety and process improvement in this profession,” she shared.

“Because our students are RNs, they want to see credibility in the feedback they get,” shared Xiao, and it is a significant benefit to CONHI students that the coaches are experienced nurses who coach and partner with them in their learning success.

“I must say that the past weeks have been extremely valuable to me. I have learned how human factors play a vital role in the care and safety of our patients. [This course] highlights the importance of the health care team as a holistic structure in health organizations. I do strongly recommend this course [for all students in nursing],” said Chinelo Odenigbo, RN to BSN student.