Find out how the SingHealth Duke-NUS Institute for Patient Safety & Quality aims to raise the standards for patient safety with its new graduate programmes.

In the healthcare setting, patient safety is just as important as the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. More can always be done to target zero harm, where patients and staff alike are not exposed to preventable harm.

"In order to achieve that, we need to look at how we can train our staff, optimise our systems and improve our culture to reduce the risk of adverse events," said Prof Tan Kok Hian, Group Director and Senior Associate Dean, SingHealth Duke-NUS Institute for Patient Safety & Quality (IPSQ).

The IPSQ was established in 2017 with this goal in mind and has reinforced a culture of patient safety within SingHealth. To further raise awareness on patient safety and related actions, IPSQ launched a series of graduate programmes in 2023.

Designed by leaders for leaders

These graduate programmes are the first of its kind in ASEAN and one of only three offered in Asia. Designed to help healthcare professionals from all disciplines improve patient safety culture and processes, students are able to take up unique modular stackable courses to attain their graduate certificate, diploma or Master's degree.

"In this programme, we bring the theories to life through sharing real-life examples and case studies," shared Prof Tan, adding that this ensures that participants can contextualise the information and clearly see how they can apply it in their own areas of work.

Prof Tan also noted such an applied-focus of learning is possible thanks to the experienced faculty, which comprises leaders in SingHealth as well as government agencies such as the Ministry of Health and other public healthcare clusters. Guest lecturers from established institutions in Japan, Thailand, Australia, the UK and other countries will also provide students with a broader, international perspective.

Benefitting from breadth and diversity

Dr Swee Du Soon, Senior Consultant, Department of Endocrinology, Singapore General Hospital, current student of the Master's Degree in Patient Safety and Healthcare Quality, acknowledged the value of having such a diverse faculty—especially from SingHealth.

"I like that we can learn directly from our leaders on what their concerns and considerations are, what kind of policies they are trying to implement, and what these looks like in practise," he said.

The fact that the faculty hailed from different healthcare professions was also a boon. This allowed Dr Swee to understand safety concerns in all areas of healthcare—from enterprise risk management, IT concerns, to skills in communicating with patients and caregivers. He noted that this learning was enhanced by the diversity of participants, which included nurses, administrative staff, and other professionals alongside doctors.

"Many of my fellow participants are very experienced in the field of patient safety. This made it valuable to hear their ideas on how we can approach situations from different perspectives," said Dr Swee.

A big picture view of patient safety

Dr Swee credited the IPSQ graduate programmes with helping him to understand the bigger picture behind errors.

"I used to think that errors happen because someone was not taught how to do something properly. Now I think in terms of the way we design the system or give instructions, and how these can be improved so that everyone has a reliable way of giving instructions or delivering care," he said.

Given the challenges that healthcare professionals face in managing the myriad of tasks, Dr Swee hopes that over time patient safety can become "second nature" and an automatic part of the workflow.

Patient safety is a cornerstone of the healthcare system, and the graduate programmes are for everyone—not just those with specific patient safety roles.

After all, patient safety is everyone's business. "We must aim for zero harm so that we can achieve a high level of excellence," Prof Tan concluded.

You, too, can do your part for patient safety. Register for the next run of the graduate programmes by SingHealth Duke-NUS IPSQ here.