Learning from errors: Assessing final year medical students' reflection on safety improvement, five year cohort study

Vicki Tully, Douglas Murphy, Evridiki Fioratou, Arun Chaudhuri, James Shaw, Peter Davey (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
236 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Investigation of real incidents has been consistently identified by expert reviews and student surveys as a potentially valuable teaching resource for medical students. The aim of this study was to adapt a published method to measure resident doctors' reflection on quality improvement and evaluate this as an assessment tool for medical students.

Methods: The design is a cohort study. Medical students were prepared with a tutorial in team based learning format and an online Managing Incident Review course. The reliability of the modified Mayo Evaluation of Reflection on Improvement tool (mMERIT) was analysed with Generalizability G-theory. Long term sustainability of assessment of incident review with mMERIT was tested over five consecutive years.

Results: A total of 824 students have completed an incident review using 167 incidents from NHS Tayside's online reporting system. In order to address the academic practice gap students were supervised by Senior Charge Nurses or Consultants on the wards where the incidents had been reported. Inter-rater reliability was considered sufficiently high to have one assessor for each student report. There was no evidence of a gradient in student marks across the academic year. Marks were significantly higher for students who used Section Questions to structure their reports compared with those who did not. In Year 1 of the study 21 (14%) of 153 mMERIT reports were graded as concern. All 21 of these students achieved the required standard on resubmission. Rates of resubmission were lower (3% to 7%) in subsequent years.

Conclusions: We have shown that mMERIT has high reliability with one rater. mMERIT can be used by students as part of a suite of feedback to help supplement their self-assessment on their learning needs and develop insightful practice to drive their development of quality, safety and person centred professional practice. Incident review addresses the need for workplace based learning and use of real life examples of mistakes, which has been identified by previous studies of education about patient safety in medical schools.

Original languageEnglish
Article number57
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalBMC Medical Education
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2018


  • Incident review
  • Medical students
  • Patient safety
  • Professionalism
  • Reflection
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Humans
  • Self-Assessment
  • Students, Medical/psychology
  • Medical Errors
  • Formative Feedback
  • Patient Safety
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate
  • Cohort Studies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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