■ Physician-patient:

Communicating effectively with patients to optimize their care

Reflections on patient safety

Published: August 2021

Type of activity: Narrative

Activity summary

Writing about one's personal experience encourages self-reflection and improves self-awareness. In this activity, learners are invited to reflect, in writing, on their patient safety experiences. Faculty may choose to have learners personally explore the topic (e.g. keep a journal), or share their narratives as part of an interactive small group session. Depending upon the nature of the activity, it may be appropriate to have learners review the CMPA Good practices before or after participating in this exercise.

Note: Do not use open medico-legal cases. Patient and provider privacy and confidentiality must be maintained at all times. No names or other identifiers should be used.

Activity description

Ask learners to write about an event they observed or were involved in during their medical training or practice that they feel relates to patient safety. Alternatively, learners may want to write about an event that occurred to them as recipients of healthcare, or as an observer of a friend's or family member's healthcare experiences. The event may be one that relates to:

  • Knowledge:
    • patient safety concepts, such as a just culture of safety, systems thinking, accountability, quality and safety improvement
    • patient safety processes, such as reporting and system improvement processes
    • development and adoption of best practices, which are often evidence-based
  • Skills:
    • recognizing and responding appropriately to actual and potential unsafe clinical conditions
    • working within one's limitations
  • Attitudes:
    • commitment to a just culture of safety as a key professional value and a component of daily practice

Suggested content for the narrative:

  • A description of the event
  • An explanation of how this event relates to patient safety
  • The learner's reflections on the event including:
    • how the event was recognized
    • why and how the event occurred
    • what changes or improvements they would make, if any
    • how they felt at the time
    • how they currently feel about the event

Suggestions to faculty

Faculty may choose to have learners share their narratives, if they feel comfortable doing so, as part of an interactive small group session.

Examples of questions that may be used to debrief the learners' experience:

  • What did you learn from your experience?
  • Who could you speak with to discuss the event?
  • What supports are available for patients?
  • What supports are available for healthcare providers?
  • Are there barriers to a just culture of safety in the organization in which you work?
    • What are they?
    • How could they be addressed?
  • I would do something differently next time because...

Additional resources

CanMEDS: Medical Expert, Professional

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this learning material is for general educational purposes only and is not intended to provide specific professional medical or legal advice, nor to constitute a "standard of care" for Canadian healthcare professionals. The use of CMPA learning resources is subject to the foregoing as well as the CMPA's Terms of Use.