School of Public Health and Community Medicine

Clinical Governance & Risk Management (PHCM9748)

image - Clinical Governance & Risk Management

This is a PLuS Alliance course offered through UNSW. Students at UNSW, Arizona State University and Kings College London who are in a PLuS Alliance program can enrol into this course.


Through the progression of this course, you will develop an understanding of a range of quality improvement and risk management theories and strategies. We will start by exploring the evolutionary context of quality in healthcare, and the role of systems and processes in creating our healthcare environments. We will examine the causes and consequences of breakdowns in quality that decrease patient safety. Learnings will be applied to practice through the process of conducting a root cause analysis. We will then analyse why these breakdowns are proving so difficult to remedy, despite the concerted efforts of healthcare professionals, managers, policymakers and consumers. Finally, we will critically examine the process of quality improvement, exploring several tools and methods associated with improving quality and safety. This course is designed to highlight knowledge that informs real-world action, and as such is intended to balance both the theory and the practice of quality improvement. Throughout the course participants will be able to draw on and share their experiences with health services and system engagement both locally and internationally. These experiences will form the basis of the learning activities and assignments.

Credit points

This course is a core course of the Master of Health Management Program, comprising six units of credit towards the total required for completion of the study program.

Mode of study

External (Distance) and Internal (Face-to-Face) classes on campus.

Course aim

The aim of this course is to offer you the opportunity to discover and preview the knowledge, methods, and skills necessary to participate in, and help make sense of, continuous quality improvement in healthcare to enhance patient safety, improve clinical systems, and best manage clinical and organisational risks.

Course Outcomes

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate understanding of the basic factors necessary for continuous quality improvement in healthcare to enhance patient safety.
  2. Examine and critically discuss the key theories, methods and skills that have been found to enable continuous quality improvement in healthcare contexts, including the ability to: (a) Analyse the theoretical approaches and contemporary methods used for addressing risks within health care organisations, such as Root Cause Analysis. (b) Explain the emergence of clinical governance within the Australian context and its application for improving patient safety within local settings and its relevance to other health systems.
  3. Propose and justify a health improvement project for a workplace context and consider its implications for patient safety and quality of care.
  4. Outline and consider the implications of current research and novel techniques being implemented for translating improved clinical governance and risk management into a range of healthcare settings.
Learning and teaching rationale

The learning and teaching rationale for this course is based on the University’s Guidelines on Learning. These Guidelines identify five important factors that support the development of adult learning. These include the: active engagement of students in the learning process; contextualisation of students’ experiences; creating of an inclusive learning and teaching experience and environment; and the development of a curriculum and teaching methods which reflect these principles.


Assessment Task 1 - Root Cause Analysis
Weighting: 40%
Length: 2000 words

Assessment Task 2 - Quality & Safety Workplace Improvement Project
Weighting: 60%
Length: 2000 words

Learning resources

Learning resources for this course consist of the following:

  1. The course notes with readings.
  2. PowerPoint presentations which will be made available the week of the session;
  3. Additional materials made available in class and after class, electronically, via Moodle.
  4. A Recommended textbook: Sollecito, W.A. & Johnson, J.K. (Eds.) (2013).  McLaughlin and Kaluzny’s Continuous quality improvement in health care (4th ed.).  Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

A full list of core and additional readings for each section of the course is set out in the 12 sections of the course. The readings have been selected for their relevance to each specific topic, and because they build on each other to provide you with an overview of this topic.