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  • Human Factors Healthcare Learning Pathway: Supporting the next generation of experts

    Sue Hignett
    • UK
    • Blogs
    • New
    • Health and care staff, Patient safety leads


    Loughborough University and the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics & Human Factors have been working on a Human Factors Healthcare Learning Pathway since the launch of the CIEHF White Paper in 2018 and it’s finally arrived. 

    The Learning Pathway is aligned to the National Patient Safety Syllabus and focusses on Human Factors.

    Human Factors is a broad, scientific, evidence-based discipline that can help people solve a wide range of problems that they face in what they do, every day. In understanding, for example, why patients struggle to use personal medical devices, the application of Human Factors in the design, implementation and evaluation of the devices or in the equipment we use, and the way people work, individually and together, will lead to more resilient, more productive, more connected and more sustainable systems and ways of working (see HEE and CIEHF report 'Human Factors and Healthcare').  

    Professor Sue Hignett, one of the developers of the course, explains more.


    Why should I take this course?

    We believe that every healthcare and social care organisation should have ‘in-house’ knowledge in Human Factors. However, rather than having to return to university to take a postgraduate degree, the Learning Pathway offers an online work-based route to accredited Technical Specialist (Healthcare) status with the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics & Human Factors (CIEHF).

    How is it structured?

    There are three levels, with Level 1 free to NHS staff in England and Wales via Health Education England (HEE) and in Scotland via NHS Education for Scotland (NES). This one hour online interactive course introduces some key messages.

    • Human Factors as a new ‘way of thinking’ about safety in everyday work.
    • Human Factors is the study of human work. This involves learning about human capabilities and limitations e.g. our physical size or strength, how we think and remember things.  We can use this knowledge to improve our well-being and performance through the type of work we do, where and when we have to do it and who we do it with.

    It also tackles some of the myths and misunderstandings about Human Factors, for example

    • TRUE or FALSE: Human Factors address problems by teaching people to modify their behaviour. This statement is FALSE, Human Factors addresses problems by modifying the design of work systems, not by teaching people to modify their behaviour
    • TRUE or FALSE: Human Factors is about eliminating human error. This statement is FALSE, Human Factors aims to design systems that are resilient to unanticipated events.

    Level 2 offers nine online courses with live activities and breakout rooms, as well as access to additional learning materials. You start with 2 one-day courses (Systems and Task Analysis) to learn the fundamental principles (new way of thinking about safety); this includes about Systems mapping (Systems Engineering for Patient Safety, SEIPS) and Task analysis (Hierarchical Task Analysis, HTA).

    The other seven courses can be taken in any order: Risk analysis & resilience, Incident investigation, Medical devices, Leadership & teamwork, Procedures, Physical environment, Teaching/disseminating HFE. 

    The first Systems and Task Analysis courses ran in February 2022, with the repeat sessions in April, July, September, etc. The course delegates described them as

    "helpful, insightful, challenging, engaging, inclusive, and fun!"

    "very good presentations and enjoyed the group activities"

    There is already lots of interest with several hospitals block booking up to 100 places for their staff.

    Level 3 provides mentoring and a professional network three times a year as support and encouragement to develop. The first cohort started in December 2021 and they are on their way to becoming a TechCIEHF

    Each has an individual mentor (Chartered Human Factors Specialist) who can discuss Human Factors challenges at work, Human Factor tools and solutions.  There are additional learning materials available to extend knowledge and skills.  There is also an opportunity to join a Healthcare Human Factors network with over 50 members and meetings three times every year (online and in-person).

    You can apply for a Healthcare Learning Pathway mentor if you have either completed an accredited PGCert in HFE, or five Level 2 courses.

    All modules will run at least twice a year and the dates and booking links will be published here: www.lboro.ac.uk/design/hfehub - so keep an eye on that if you are interested.

    It's an exciting time to be working in health and social care Human Factors and this Learning Pathway supports the next generation of experts!

    About the Author

    Sue Hignett is professor of Healthcare Ergonomics & Patient Safety at Loughborough University.

    Sue is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors (FCIEHF, C.Erg.HF).  Over the last 35 years she has experienced the healthcare industry as a clinician, ergonomist, researcher and patient. Her research looks at a wide range of Human Factors issues including design of safer systems, building and vehicle (ambulance) design, emergency and CBRNe response, and staff wellbeing.

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