New Master’s Degree Focuses on Clinical Quality, Patient Safety and Leadership

June 1, 2017 - A new master’s degree at Georgetown will teach health care professionals how to enhance safety and improve health care quality while maintaining a focus on the patient in a increasingly complex heath care system.

The executive master’s in clinical quality, safety and leadership (CQSL), developed by Georgetown University Medical Center in collaboration with MedStar Health, will offer an integrated and comprehensive focus on patient safety and quality care.

While there are other master’s programs with a similar focus, the program at GUMC will vary in two significant ways. Apart from a four-day on-campus residency, the program will be offered entirely online, allowing professionals to complete the program in 16 months, while continuing to work.

Compared to other programs, the new executive master’s degree is also unique because of its strong emphasis on community outreach and the Jesuit principle of cura personalis. The program’s development was led by Anne Gunderson, MS, EdD, GNP, professor of medicine and associate dean for innovation in clinical education at GUMC. “It’s hard to imagine that one can provide ‘care of the entire person’ if attention to quality care and patient safety is missing,” Gunderson says.

The Need for a “Paradigm Shift”

Despite her 17 years of experience in medical education, including her development of a similar master’s program at the University of Illinois, Chicago, Gunderson is still amazed by how little quality and safety training is provided in medical and nursing schools nationwide. “There is basic training required by accreditation bodies, but it does not adequately prepare the physicians and nurses for the complexity of medicine in today’s world,” she says.

The absence of such training leads to medical errors - a serious problem that affects not just patients but also the health care workers involved.  “Many good physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other health care professionals have left the field due to depression and lack of support from their colleagues,” Gunderson says. “Even more unfortunate, a growing number of health care professionals take their own lives each year when involved in a preventable medical error.”

Incidents where health care workers caused medical errors that harmed patients illustrate the need for increased training focused on how to provide high quality and safe medical care - skills that are critical to protecting current and future patients. Such incdients also explain why doctors, nurses, administers, and other health care specialists  have pursued degrees like the executive master's in CQSL degree.

“Many people want this training. They know there needs to be a paradigm shift which appropriately adjusts the focus on patient care from one of institutional risk management to an integrated and comprehensive emphasis on patient safety and quality care,” Gunderson says.

Understanding the health care system

The eight courses that make up the executive master's in CQSL come largely from disciplines outside medicine including cognitive psychology, human factors engineering and organizational management science. In addition to the four-day on-site residency at Georgetown, the degree features online asynchronous coursework, simulation, team training and a mentored capstone project. The program, which will have three start dates each year, is designed to be full time, but can accommodate part-time students.

The program is designed to develop leaders in the advancement of safety science and quality health care who will train others in their institutions in this science, Gunderson says. “Given the recent safety and quality requirements for hospital accreditation by national health care organizations, and the recent ‘only pay for quality performance’ outcome measures, the demand for safety science and quality training will continue to grow for the next decade,” Gunderson says.

Renee Twombly
GUMC Communications