Graduate Certificate Programs in Patient Safety and Quality (PSQ) - Online and Campus
Updated: February 25, 2022
Graduate certificate programs in patient safety and quality (PSQ), patient safety and quality healthcare, and healthcare improvement and patient safety are academic training programs that are designed to prepare college graduates and mid-career professionals who hold a bachelor’s degree with the knowledge and skills required to assess, monitor, and improve the quality and safety of healthcare services. Students in these programs generally complete four or five graduate-level courses that cover topics in the structure of healthcare organizations, patient safety theories, models of healthcare improvement, and the use of data to identify and mitigate risk. Earning a graduate certificate in this field can lead to career advancement for healthcare professionals who want to work in the patient safety and healthcare quality management field.
Graduate certificate programs typically require four to six courses focusing on applied skill development, which means that students can immediately apply what they have learned to their place of work, and can also earn their certificate in roughly half the time it takes to earn a master’s degree in PSQ. Furthermore, for students who think they might want to pursue a master’s degree in the future, credits earned in a graduate certificate typically transfer towards a master’s program. This is especially true if the master’s program is offered by the same school as the graduate certificate.
Patient Safety and Healthcare Quality Improvement Explained
Assuring patient safety and improving the quality of healthcare are major concerns for hospitals, medical centers, and other treatment providers in the healthcare sector. To address these concerns, healthcare organizations rely on trained specialists who take a scientific approach to analyzing risk, identifying areas of concern, and implementing programs and policies that reduce the incidence of errors and improve patient outcomes. These specialists may be designated as healthcare quality analysts, patient safety consultants, and/or quality improvement managers.
Some PSQ specialists are nurses and other medical professionals who have clinical experience in addition to training in the theories and practices of PSQ. Others are healthcare managers, administrators, and consultants who understand healthcare organizational structures, biomedical terminology, and patient treatment protocols, and who use data analysis tools, principles of error science, and a systems approach to enact quality improvement change and promote a culture of safety and harm reduction. Working in the field of patient safety and healthcare quality improvement thus requires advanced analytic skills, team leadership and organizational communication training, and an understanding of the American healthcare system, regulatory compliance and ethical concerns in patient treatment, and the processes by which hospitals and other medical facilities monitor outcomes, mitigate risk, and improve quality.
Identifying and Classifying PSQ Graduate Certificate Programs
Graduate certificate programs in PSQ, including programs with designations such as Healthcare Quality, Quality Improvement and Patient Safety, Patient Safety and Error Science, are defined as post-baccalaureate, non-degree programs that provide practical, career-oriented training and master’s-level instruction in the principles and best practices of patient safety and healthcare quality improvement analysis, policy, and management. These programs require applicants to hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree but accept candidates who hold a master’s and/or a doctoral degree as well. The curricula offered by these programs typically consist of a small cluster of courses that can be completed in one year or less of part-time enrollment. Graduates are generally prepared to begin working in a PSQ capacity in hospitals and other patient treatment facilities or to continue on to a master’s or doctoral program in PSQ or a related healthcare field.
Patient Safety and Healthcare Quality Improvement Graduate Certificate Coursework
Specific curricular requirements and courses vary by program and by school. However, there are a number of core topics and proficiencies that are typically covered by most if not all graduate certificate programs with a PSQ curriculum. For example, students in PSQ graduate certificate programs generally study the history of and context for patient safety and healthcare improvement measures in order to cultivate a practical understanding of the theories, models, and methods used to assure quality and reduce risk in the contemporary US healthcare system. In addition, students learn how to use data analytics, statistical modeling, and epidemiological tools to identify issues and potential problems in patient care and thus mitigate risk and reduce the probability of errors. Finally, students cultivate group leadership and communication skills to prepare for the challenges of working with other allied health and medical professionals to institute organizational change that fosters better patient care and quality improvements in healthcare delivery.
The courses listed below draw on actual PSQ graduate certificate program curricula and are meant to provide an overview of the types of courses commonly offered by these programs.
- Quality Improvement Science in Healthcare
- Building a Quality Culture
- Error Science and Risk Reduction in Medicine
- Biostatistics and Health Data Analysis
- Communication and Collaboration in Patient Safety
Online Graduate Certificate in PSQ
Many schools now offer graduate certificate programs in an online format in order reach students who do not live within commuting range of the school and to give working professionals a more convenient and flexible alternative to traditional, campus-based instruction. There are, in fact, a number of schools that currently offer online graduate certificate programs in PSQ. These programs utilize learning management systems (LMSs) in order to deliver live and pre-recorded lectures, virtual class sessions, and other instructional activities.
Some online programs utilize synchronous instruction for some or all of their courses, which means that students are required to attend lectures and class meetings that are streamed in real-time according to a set schedule. Other programs offer all of their coursework via asynchronous instruction, a mode of online instruction that does not have a real-time component and which gives students 24-7 access to pre-recorded instructional sessions, assignments, and learning assets. Synchronous instruction provides students with more structure but less flexibility compared to asynchronous instruction. Conversely, asynchronous instruction provides more scheduling flexibility, but requires students to be self-disciplined and more independent learners.
GraduateCertificates.com classifies programs that offer all of their coursework online and programs that offer most of their coursework online but that require a limited number of campus visits (three or less per year) as online programs. While most online graduate certificate programs in PSQ do not have campus-based requirements, some programs hold one or two in-person sessions on their campus that students are required to attend. These sessions are typically short in duration and may be scheduled during summers or on weekends in order to accommodate students who are working full time.
Programs that require students to attend more than three instructional sessions on campus per year are classified as blended or hybrid programs. While blended/hybrid formats offer students who live near the school offering the program a more convenient and flexible alternative to fully campus-based programs, they may not be practical for students who do not live within commuting range of a school’s campus.
Examples of Online Graduate Certificate Programs in Patient Safety and Quality
The programs listed below are offered in an online format by an accredited, non-profit college or university. These programs are meant to provide a representative overview of the types of PSQ graduate certificate programs that are currently offered online.
The George Washington University (GW) in Washington DC offers an online Graduate Certificate in Health Care Quality program. The program consists of six courses that overlap with GW’s online Master of Science in Health Sciences (MSHS) in Health Care Quality program. The 18 graduate credits conferred by the graduate certificate program can be transferred to the MSHS program if and when a student opts to pursue a master’s degree in Health Care Quality at GW. The certificate program, which requires a bachelor’s degree and is designed for students who have some prior healthcare experience, can be completed in as few as 18 months and does not require any campus visits. For more information on the program, visit GW at healthsciencesprograms.gwu.edu.
The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) offers an online Graduate Certificate in Patient Safety, Error Science, and Full Disclosure program with a PSQ curriculum that consists of three courses that overlap with UIC’s Master of Science (MS) in Patient Safety Leadership program. The 12-credit certificate program has a six to eight month completion time and does not require any campus visits. It is designed for students who hold an undergraduate degree, although admissions preference is given to students who hold a graduate degree or have completed some prior graduate coursework in a healthcare field. For more information on the program, visit UIC at psl.ec.uic.edu.
Regis University in Denver, CO offers an online Health Care Quality and Patient Safety Graduate Certificate program that has a PSQ curriculum. The program consists of four courses that confer 12 graduate credits. However, students who have less than two years of healthcare experience in a patient care setting may be required to take an additional course in healthcare delivery systems prior to enrolling in the certificate program coursework. Indeed, the program is designed for students who hold a bachelor’s degree in health science, healthcare administration, or another clinical health field and have two or more years of health industry professional experience, although that is not a requirement for admission. Students in the program do not have to attend any on-campus sessions. For more information on the program, visit Regis University at www.regis.edu.
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