Human Factors in Patient Safety

Why study human factors?
Human factors recognises that non-technical skills, such as communication, teamwork, decision-making and leadership are critical to enhanced patient care in hospital settings.

The study of human factors creates a culture of patient safety by making care safer and more effective in healthcare settings for the benefit of hospital patients.

The Human Factors in Patient Safety programme provides a greater awareness of risk and error in the workplace by providing participants with skills required to mitigate risk and prevent adverse outcomes.

It also offers access to an interprofessional team of experts in surgery, psychology, nursing, pharmacy and the related fields of medical ethics, medical litigation, leadership, professionalism and communication, amongst others.

Course details
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.

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, they acquire the skills to be safer and more efficient in their own practice, and gain the knowledge and skills to improve the safety and quality of care in their work systems.

The aims of the programme are threefold and 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.

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

Delivery and Design
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.

Learning Outcomes
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.

Subjects taught

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, we explore the key areas of professionalism including relationships with patients and ethical practice. In addition, you are introduced to the principles and practice of advanced communication including shared decision-making, obtaining consent, open disclosure, breaking bad news and end of life care.

• Research Methods
The research methods training course will cover the full range of 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 protocol 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.

Entry requirements

Entry requirements
This is an inter-professional programme. Applications are invited from all those working in the acute hospital setting including surgeons, anesthesiologists, emergency medicine physicians, obstetricians, radiologists, acute care nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists, radiographers, social workers, dietitians, occupational therapists, other allied healthcare professionals and quality managers.

To be eligible, candidates must hold:
• A?Bachelor of Medicine (MB) or a primary degree in a health and social sciences field with a qualification achieved at the level of 2.2 honours.
• All candidates must also provide evidence of at least two years' work experience in acute hospital care?and must be currently working in the acute hospital setting.
• If English is not your first language, you will also need to supply a copy of an academic Opens in new windowIELTS examination, or equivalent, with an overall score of at least 6.5 and no individual band below 6.5*. Read more about minimum English language requirements here.

As part of the application process you are required to submit the following supporting documentation:
• CV
• Copy of passport
• Copy of educational transcripts
• Proof of sponsorship (where applicable)
• Personal Statement max 300 words
• Letter from current employer

Application dates

How to apply
Applications are now open for our online PG Diploma/MSc. in Human Factors in Patient Safety programmes for 2022-2024 intake.

Applications will close on 3 August 2022, or sooner if places are filled, so we advise you to apply as early as possible to avoid disappointment.

All applications are assessed on a rolling basis and places offered accordingly (offers may be made subject to meeting all application criteria at a later time).

If you have any questions in relation to deadlines or availability please email

Assessment Info


Formative assessment will include participation in classroom activities and group work. Summative assessment will involve:

•A 2,000-word written assignment per module.

•Participation in a group project and presentation, per module

•A 300-word submission to a weekly discussion forum, (6-8) per module.

•For those progressing to the Masters programme, a publication-ready research article accompanied by an extended literature review will be submitted for assessment.


2 years
Delivery: Part-time

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.


Fees and funding

•Year 1: €5,000
•Year 2: €7,500

Non-EU applicants
•Year 1: €10,000
•Year 2: €15,000

Please note
•All students also need to pay an annual NUI fee of €45.
•Fees are subject to annual review

Enrolment dates

Beginning in August 2020

Post Course Info

Career progression
• Staff nurses and clinical nurse managers graduating from the MSc in Human Factors in Patient Safety may be entitled to a specialist Qualification Allowance, payable to nurses employed directly on duties in specialist areas appropriate to the qualifications.
• The MSc in Human Factors in Patient Safety is listed as an approved Masters degree qualification that is eligible for incremental credit under the 'Framework for the application of incremental credit to new entrant consultants to the Irish Public Health Service'. A new entrant consultant may be granted up to two years' incremental credit for completing the MSc in Human Factors in Patient Safety at RCSI.

More details
  • Qualification letters


  • Qualifications

    Degree - Masters (Level 9 NFQ)

  • Attendance type

    Part time

  • Apply to

    Course provider