Massachusetts aims to offer first-ever statewide approach to health care safety education

The Betsy Lehman Center has convened a new advisory group to shape a statewide approach to safety education that equips all who work in patient care organizations — from executives to board members to clinicians and staff — to work effectively together to prevent harm to patients.

The work stems from the state’s strategic plan, the Roadmap to Health Care Safety for Massachusetts, and will result in a curriculum and experiential learning tools that spread baseline knowledge of safety principles and practice.

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The Health Care Safety Education Advisory Committee, comprised of 25 clinicians and others with expertise in educating physicians, nurses and other health professionals, is tasked with planning a novel, statewide approach to safety education. In addition to a “Health Care Safety 101” curriculum with modules appropriate to diverse roles and settings, resources will include freely available, high-quality learning tools to help providers integrate safety training into their day-to-day work. The group also will recommend minimum safety training expectations and requirements for licensed health care professionals and facilities.

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John Co, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A.

John Co, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., Vice President of Graduate Medical Education at Mass General Brigham, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and member of the committee, notes that patient safety is often regarded as something that is done by others and treated as being separate from the day-to-day work. He is interested in helping people "seamlessly integrate patient safety into the way they think and go about their work all the time." Dr. Co says, "This is the best way for it to be accepted and make a positive impact in a sustainable way.”

At the committee’s first meeting this month, Barbara Fain, Executive Director of the Betsy Lehman Center for Patient Safety, which has led the Roadmap work since 2019, emphasized the need to integrate safety with other priorities, including health equity, patient experience and workforce well-being and retention. The statewide safety education effort will help organizations meet these priorities, rather than layer an additional standalone task on top of existing work.

Curriculum will be tailored to the needs of the workforce

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Melissa DeMayo, R.N., M.S.N.

Committee member Melissa DeMayo, R.N., M.S.N., Vice President of Quality and Chief Quality Officer at Signature Healthcare, describes the crucial role education can play in creating a common body of knowledge and experience across the state.

“The curriculum will become the vehicle to drive the Roadmap from senior leaders through middle management to the front lines of health care across the continuum,” says DeMayo. “Health care workers across the state will have the opportunity to hear the same message and adopt the same behaviors known to reduce harm.”

While the committee will advise on all aspects of the statewide education program, the Betsy Lehman Center plans to identify a leading curriculum development vendor next year to produce the dynamic and relevant training modules.

The committee also will design a voluntary credentialing program that offers a certificate in safety leadership for executive leaders and board members of provider organizations. And it plans to engage with national associations for institutes of higher education and other training programs for the health professions to advocate that safety be included in core academic curricula.

“We understand that this is an ambitious undertaking,” Fain says. But with the knowledge and commitment of everyone involved in the effort, she says, “This is something Massachusetts can do.”


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