Communicating with Patients after Adverse Events (IHI Open School Course: PS105)

​You chose to work in health care in order to care for people. So when you accidentally harm a patient, it can be exceptionally hard to talk about it. In this course, you’ll learn why communicating with patients after adverse events can feel so difficult for health care professionals – and why it’s nonetheless essential. You’ll learn what to say to a patient, and how to say it, immediately after such an event occurs. You’ll also learn how to construct an effective apology that can help restore the trust between the caregiver and the patient. You’ll find out what kinds of support both patients and caregivers may need after an adverse event. Finally, you’ll consider how to communicate when an error causes minor harm to a patient or does not reach the patient at all. NOTE: Because there are several opportunities for discussion during the final two lessons of this course (lessons 4 and 5), it may be beneficial to work through those lessons as a group.


Lesson 1: The Importance of Communication When Things Go Wrong
Lesson 2: Responding to an Adverse Event: A Step-by-Step Approach
Lesson 3: The Impact of Adverse Events on Caregivers: The Second Victim
Lesson 4: The Apology
Lesson 5: To Communicate or Not to Communicate


This course is free for students, medical residents, university faculty who teach courses, and users from the Least Developed Countries. IHI charges a modest subscription fee for health professionals. Learn more about IHI Open School subscriptions.