Medical Errors are 3rd Leading Cause of Death in U.S. & GWSON Launches MOOC Addressing Critical Issue

Patient in healthcare setting
May 16, 2016

Health is central to our well-being. However, several different sources estimate that medical error is the 3rd leading cause of death in the U.S., killing about 400,000 people a year. That is more than 1,000 people per day, which is a stunning statistic.

The irony is the care that is supposed to help us may actually kill us. These statistics are of great concern to healthcare providers of all types. Healthcare providers dedicate their lives to helping others, have gone through rigorous educational programs and clinical training, and come to work each day to help people manage their health problems--not to cause harm. An ongoing challenge is that healthcare providers often work within systems prone to error. Often it is easier to do a work around than to address a systems issue, and that can create an unsafe healthcare environment.

The George Washington University School of Nursing (GWSON) has been tackling medical error for years. The GW nursing faculty built the first Master’s program in health care quality in the country, subsequently developed a healthcare quality field of study in the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program and a graduate certificate in healthcare quality, and has been engaged in research related to quality of care and patient safety.

To help educate an even wider audience about healthcare quality and patient safety, two faculty members developed Leadership and Healthcare Quality, a massive open online course (MOOC) that will launch later this month on Coursera. Dr. Jean Johnson, GW SON founding dean (retired) and professor, and Dr. Gregory Pawlson, a physician with faculty appointments in both the GW SON and the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences, have both been deeply engaged in improving healthcare quality throughout their careers. This is the GW SON’s inaugural MOOC and the first GW University MOOC offered through its partnership with Coursera. 

GW SON Dean Pamela Jeffries has vast experience with developing MOOCs and has committed the school to be active in offering MOOCs. “If one life can be saved because of the MOOC, it will be well worth the effort,” says Dean Jeffries. “Our school remains committed to working to improve quality of care through education and research, and this MOOC is one part of the effort.”

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