Newsletter September 2023: The Essential Patient Safety Course

Guy Haller


Patients expect anaesthesia not only to prevent the pain and discomfort of surgery but also to respect their needs and, most importantly, to be safe.1 Many patients fear complications, particularly unconsciousness, brain damage or death.2 In response, anaesthetists have learnt through training and experience to deliver anaesthesia safely, to monitor and adapt to changes in physiological parameters, and to anticipate and manage critical situations during the pre-, intra- and post-operative periods. 3 However, anaesthesia care does not occur in the isolated context of the operating room but in the overall context of a healthcare organisation. This adds a great deal of complexity to the practice. To provide safe care, anaesthetists must also clearly understand how the organisation works, how to access vital patient information and emergency supplies, and how to interact appropriately with critical care and emergency physicians. They must be aware of formal and informal standards and organisational culture. Thus, excellence and competence in anaesthesia are also about gaining metacognitive knowledge about the task being performed, the context in which it occurs, problem-solving processes, and knowledge about oneself, all of which can significantly impact the safety of practice.4

Knowledge can be defined as a mixture of information, theories, principles and concepts that form the basis for problem-solving and decision-making in a specific domain, in this case, patient safety.5 Together with skills and abilities, two additional constructs, and it forms the three-dimensional model of competence 6 (Figure 1)

model of competence

Figure 1: Model of competence by Lizzio, A & Wilson, K. (2004)

The Essential Patient Safety Course aims to provide learners with the essential knowledge of all aspects, from individual errors to more significant organisational issues, that are likely to affect the overall safety of patients during perioperative care. It forms the basis of a three-stage training programme in patient safety that further includes the Advanced and Master Courses in Patient Safety. The latter allows learners to further develop their skills and attitudes (beliefs, opinions, dispositions) in this area. It is open to all professionals involved in perioperative care (anaesthetists, intensive care physicians, emergency physicians, surgeons, nurses, nurse anaesthetists) and to all those interested in acquiring a deeper understanding of some of the basic concepts of safety science.


The programme is based on the overarching principles of the Declaration of Helsinki on Patient Safety in Anaesthesiology. It is guided by the WHO Global Action Plan for Patient Safety 2021-2030 and the WHO Multi-professional Patient Safety Curriculum.7 Through the five training programme modules, participants will learn the key dimensions of the Helsinki Declaration, understand issues related to system complexity and human factors, and learn how to use common tools to improve quality and safety.

Specifically, in Module 1, learners will receive a theoretical update on the various aspects of patient safety and quality of perioperative care. In Module 2, based on the WHO framework for human factors and patient safety, learners will be able to explore and gain knowledge in four key areas of human factors: leadership, teamwork, communication, and situational awareness. In Module 3, they will be able to identify and explore some common safety issues (e.g. intravenous medication errors, healthcare-associated infections and device-related problems) in anaesthesia, intensive care and other acute care settings. In Module 4, they will be able to develop a further understanding of the complexity of healthcare organisations and discover how to adapt to it through the various frameworks provided. Module 5 introduces and discusses common strategies to improve safety, such as guidelines, pathways, and critical incident reporting to enable participants to learn and train on these tools.


The chosen format is e-learning, allowing students to learn at a distance. The course is supported by dedicated videos, clinical vignettes, expert interviews, and study materials that will enable learners to gain knowledge in the different areas discussed. Each module is divided into smaller micro-modules for self-paced and short learning sessions on specific self-contained topics. Each micro-module ends with a short quiz, and the whole module ends with a final test. This is used to assess the learner’s personal score.

The benefits of e-learning are numerous, and it is increasingly helping to transform professional training. 8 By breaking down the barriers of time and distance, e-learning can be used from different locations and time zones at the learner’s convenience, without the need to move to a specific physical facility. The chosen electronic format also allows self-paced learning and promotes personalised learning experiences, which can improve both satisfaction and knowledge retention.9 The multimedia content provided in e-learning platforms can also enhance participants’ learning experience and contribute to the development of engaged and positive attitudes towards patient safety. Finally, the electronic format chosen provides additional flexibility, allowing learners to tailor their study schedules to suit their personal and professional commitments. This flexibility is particularly beneficial for working and busy professionals.

Where can I access these modules?

The Essential Patient Safety Course will be available on the ESAIC Academy. Modules 1 & 2 will be released in September, and Modules 3, 4 & 5 by the start of 2024.


The ESAIC Academy is accredited by the European Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (EACCME). Completing these modules will earn the learner CME credits.


  1. Shevde K, Panagopoulos G. A survey of 800 patients’ knowledge, attitudes, and concerns regarding anesthesia. Anesth Analg 1991;73(2):190-8.
  2. Matthey P, Finucane BT, Finegan BA. The attitude of the general public towards preoperative assessment and risks associated with general anesthesia. Canadian journal of anaesthesia = Journal canadien d’anesthesie 2001;48(4):333-9.
  3. Preckel B, Staender S, Arnal D, et al. Ten years of the Helsinki Declaration on patient safety in anaesthesiology: An expert opinion on perioperative safety aspects. Eur J Anaesthesiol 2020;37(7):521-610.
  4. Krathwohl DR. A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy: An overview. Theory into Practice 2002;41(212-18)
  5. Anderson JR RL, Simon HA. Situated learning and education Educational Researcher, 25(4), 5–11. Educational Researcher 1996;25(4):5-11
  6. Lizzio A, Wilson K. Action Learning in Higher Education: an investigation of its potential to develop professional capability. Studies in Higher Education 2004;29(4):469-88.
  7. Mellin-Olsen J, Staender S, Whitaker DK, et al. The Helsinki Declaration on Patient Safety in Anaesthesiology. Eur J Anaesthesiol 2010;27(7):592-7.
  8. Zubala A, Lyszkiewicz K, Lee E, et al. Large-scale online education programmes and their potential to effect change in behaviour and practice of health and social care professionals: a rapid systematic review. Interactive Learning Environments 2019;27:797 – 812.
  9. Somayeh M, Dehghani M, Mozaffari F, et al. The effectiveness of E- learning in learning: A review of the literature. International Journal of Medical Research and Health Sciences 2016;5:86-91.


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