Certification in Patient Safety

A Career Opportunity for Anesthesia Educators

When we consider during our careers whether or not to pursue additional training, we may weigh benefits such as career advancement and professional gratification against the investment of time and money. I recently earned the Certificate for Professionals in Patient Safety (CPPS), offered by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) and the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF). In my estimation, the CPPS is a good investment, and I would like to share how it may help advance your professional goals.

The CPPS was created to help health care professionals achieve proficiency in patient safety through a common language and skills development. It is targeted not just to physicians of all specialties, but also to nurses, pharmacists, and healthcare executives. Since its creation, more than 2,000 healthcare professionals have obtained CPPS certification. The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) has recently endorsed the effort by partnering with the IHI/NPSF to offer ASA members a 10% discount on coursework and examination fees.

Why Should Anesthesiologists Consider CPPS?

The CPPS is a natural fit for academic anesthesiologists. The focus of our day-to-day work prepares us to think about patient safety. As educators in anesthesiology we often address patient safety topics, both in educational programs and in the hospital setting. A core competency for anesthesiology training is prevention of adverse events—such as complications and medication errors—and communication about them when they do occur. We foster a culture of safety when we are called on both to support the clinicians involved in a medical crisis and to implement changes in response to serious events.

On the larger scale, anesthesiologists are prepared for patient-safety work because of our specialty’s longstanding commitment. For over 100 years the ASA and the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation (APSF) have used both personal and system changes to predict errors and manage adverse events. The American Board of Anesthesiology’s inclusion of patient safety as a component of the Maintenance of Certification in Anesthesiology (MOCA) demonstrates the board’s recognition of these essential skills.

The benefits of broad faculty expertise in patient safety include improving our own practice, learning from one another, strengthening trainee education, and advancing institutional goals. Moreover, formal training in patient safety and the CPPS can identify us as knowledgeable leaders in the field. This recognition can lead to opportunities that involve spearheading efforts at the institutional level and collaborating across disciplines.

How Do I Earn Certification?

The certification is a two-step process involving training and an examination. Training options include webinars, live courses, and online modules. The comprehensive online review course includes five modules: Culture; Leadership; Patient Safety Risks and Solutions; Measuring and Improving Performance; and Systems Thinking and Design/Human Factors. The modules guide the learner to take on the perspective of a chief safety officer to manage medical errors that occur throughout the hospital, not just those in the perioperative environment. This training benefits both clinicians and hospital administrators alike. Expect to take about an hour per review module.

The exam is administered in a professional examination center, and its duration is two hours. My exam included 100 items, most of which were patient safety scenarios requiring me to make management decisions.

I think this training is extremely useful for anesthesiologists generally, and I especially recommend pursuing this certification if you are interested in a leadership role in patient safety. The certification process will help align your skills with departmental and institutional goals, and the recognition may open doors for career advancement. This is a good investment of your time and effort.

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