Improving Patient Safety Through Formal and Informal Learning Networks

Sara Melo, Matthias Beck

Research output: Working paper


This paper explores a novel perspective on patient safety improvements, which draws on
contemporary social network and learning theories. A case study was conducted at a Portuguese
acute university hospital. Data collection followed a staged approach, whereby 46 interviews
were conducted involving 49 respondents from a broad array of departments and professional
backgrounds. This case study highlights the importance of two major interlinked factors in
contributing to patient safety improvements. The first of these is the crucial role of formal and
informal, internal and external social networks. The second is the importance and the possible
advantage of combining formal and informal learning. The analysis suggests that initiatives
rooted in formal learning approaches alone do not necessarily lead to the creation of long-term
grounded internal safety networks, and that patient safety improvements can crucially depend on
bottom-up initiatives of communities of practice and informal learning. Traditional research on
patient safety places a strong emphasis on top-down and managerialist approaches and is often
based on the assumption that „safety? learning is primarily formal and context-independent. This
paper suggests that bottom-up initiatives and a combination of formal and informal learning can
make a major contribute to patient safety improvements.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationYork
PublisherThe York Management School
Number of pages28
ISBN (Print)1743-4041
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011

Publication series

NameWorking Paper Series
PublisherThe York Management School
ISSN (Print)1743-4041

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)


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