Medical professionals moving a patient on a stretcher to the operating theatre.

Human Factors in Patient Safety

Human factors

Course details

Applications now open – September 2024 intake

RCSI is pleased to announce that applications for our inter-professional and online Postgraduate Diploma/MSc in Human Factors in Patient Safety programme is now open for the September 2024 intake.

Apply now

This inter-professional part-time online programme in Human Factors and Patient Safety is for all healthcare professionals involved in the care of hospital patients.

Scholars will attend online interactive sessions and workshops one day per month. The rest of the multi-disciplinary programme including didactic teaching, discussion boards, reading, and resources are offered online, which you can access it in your own time.

The programme is suitable for surgeons, physicians, anesthesiologists, emergency medicine doctors, obstetricians, pharmacists, nurses and midwives working in the hospital setting, as well as safety and quality managers. Graduates achieve an in-depth understanding of error and risk in healthcare systems, you will acquire the skills to be safer and more efficient in your own practice, and gain the knowledge and skills to improve the safety and quality of care in your work systems.

The aims of the programme include the development of:

  • a comprehensive understanding of error, risk and safety in healthcare;
  • the social, cognitive and personal resource skills necessary to be safe and effective healthcare workers, team members and team leaders; and
  • expertise in conducting patient safety research and quality improvement initiatives in healthcare.

The programme is accredited by the National University of Ireland, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) and RCSI.

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The MSc in Human Factors in Patient Safety programme is part-time and delivered over two years using blended learning modalities. All didactic teaching is offered online and students can access it from home in their own time. 

In Year 1 students undertake five taught modules of study worth a total of 60 credits which make up the Postgraduate Diploma. Students attend classes for two consecutive days ever eight weeks per module. The fifth module – Research Methods requires attendance for four consecutive days.

In Year 2 students undertake the Masters (MSc) programme. This involves a 30 credit Advanced Research Methods and Dissertation module which culminates in a submission-ready empirical research or quality improvement article plus an extended literature review.

Students must successfully complete the Postgraduate Diploma before progressing to the MSc.

Modules in Year 1

Error and Safety in Acute Healthcare In this introductory module, we take a systems perspective on the issue of patient safety. This is a foundation module, the seminal literature is explored in depth.
Personal Effectiveness and Non-technical Skills This module focuses on the factors that contribute to improving personal effectiveness and team performance in healthcare.
Leadership of Process and Quality Improvement In this module, the theoretical principles and the practical strategies behind QI are explored in depth.
Professionalism and Advanced Communications In this module areas of professionalism are explored including relationships with patients and ethical practice. Principles and practice of advanced communication including shared decision-making, obtaining consent, open disclosure, breaking bad news and end of life care are also included.
Research Methods Research methodologies including: experimental and quasi-experimental methods, quantitative descriptive/ observational research, qualitative and mixed methods research, pragmatic research approaches and research in process and quality improvement. Scholars will apply their skills to the development of a research proposal which will form the basis for their research dissertation.

Modules in Year 2

Research Dissertation In this module you will apply the knowledge, skills, and techniques developed over the previous five modules. You will conduct an independent research or quality improvement project which will be presented as a ready for publication research paper.


Formative assessment will include participation in classroom activities and group work. Summative assessment for the majority of the modules will involve:

  • a 2,000-word assignment
  • participation in a group project and presentation
  • a 300-word submission to a weekly discussion forum (n = 6-8 per module)
  • Scholars who wish to be awarded an MSc must submit a dissertation which includes a publication-ready research article accompanied by an extended literature review.

Online-interactive dates for Year 1, starting in September 2024 – June 2025:

Module 1: Error and Safety in Acute Healthcare 

  • Error and Safety Day 1: TBC
  • Error and Safety Day 2: TBC
  • Error and Safety Day 3: TBC

Module 2: Personal Effectiveness and Non-technical Skills

  • Personal Effectiveness and Non-technical Skills Day 1: TBC
  • Personal Effectiveness and Non-technical Skills Day 2: TBC
  • Personal Effectiveness and Non-technical Skills Day 3: TBC

Module 3: Leadership of Process and Quality Improvement 

  • Leadership of Process and Quality Improvement Day 1: TBC
  • Leadership of Process and Quality Improvement Day 2: TBC

Module 4: Professionalism and Advanced Communication 

  • Professionalism and Advanced Communication Day 1: TBC
  • Professionalism and Advanced Communication Day 2: TBC
  • Professionalism and Advanced Communication Day 3: April 2024

Module 5: Research Methods

  • Research Methods Day 1: TBC
  • Research Methods Day 2: TBC

Download a copy of the timetable below:

This programme will assist participants to:

  • Describe and interpret the major concepts, principles, theories and methodologies associated with human factors and its application to patient safety and display an ability to synthesise and critically appraise the evidence.
  • Identify and critically examine the specific person and system factors in hospitals which increase the risk of error and may impact patient safety.
  • Appraise the role of non-technical skills in supporting safe and effective patient care.
  • Utilise advanced communication and interpersonal skills to recognise and manage difficult situations arising from conflict with patients, relatives and colleagues.
  • Demonstrate proficiency in the use of the main interpersonal and communication skills and tools.
  • Recognise issues and circumstances in health care practice that raise potential legal liability and to utilise the frameworks necessary to analyse and critically evaluate errors in hospital practice.
  • Select and apply quality and process improvement methodologies toward developing applied solutions to healthcare problems.
  • Develop an idea into a comprehensive research strategy.
  • Demonstrate mastery of the main qualitative and quantitative tools and techniques of human factors research and investigation.
  • Champion and defend a systems perspective on risk and safety management in healthcare.
  • Endorse the priority of patient safety in healthcare and demonstrate personal support for efforts to understand and manage healthcare risk more effectively.