Nursing school to launch new MOOC on health care quality improvement

stethoscope on computer keyboard“Take the Lead on Health Care Quality Improvement”—a new free massive open online course (MOOC) offered this fall by Case Western Reserve University’s Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing—targets ways frontline health care workers can deliver safer and better care to patients.

The principles to be explored can also apply to medicine, dentistry, social work, nonprofits, health care professionals and home health care professionals.

Quality improvement has become an international concern in the health field, said Mary Dolansky, associate professor of nursing and director of the Quality and Safety Education for Nurses (QSEN) Institute, which provides resources to improve quality and safety in health care.

The MOOC, a five-week course from Oct. 15 through Nov. 19, is the first offered by the nursing school’s faculty and draws from the interprofessional course that has been offered at CWRU for the last 20 years —“The Continual Improvement of Health Care.”

Individuals from more than 40 countries already have enrolled for the course. Enrollment is unlimited, but the registration deadline is Oct. 15.

The course is offered through the web-based educational organization Coursera. While free, individuals can possibly earn continuing education credits for $10 per module.  Approval is pending.

Register for free online at

Joining Dolansky as instructors are Shirley Moore, the Edward J. and Louise Mellon Professor and associate dean for research at the School of Nursing, and Mamta Singh, associate professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve’s School of Medicine and co-director of the Center of Excellence in Primary Care at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center.

As part of the curriculum, students will choose an area to change, whether in their work environment or personal life—taking theory to actual practice.

“We will focus on developing a philosophy of improvement in frontline health care workers,” Dolansky said. “Learning how to make change will increase our success, as, overall, less than half of the health care’s profession’s efforts to improve patient care have succeeded.”

Nurses and physicians work directly with the patients, but often follow policies and procedures set by people not always involved with the day-to-day patient care, Dolansky believes.

The course leads students through the process of taking what’s learned from reading and lectures to the work setting to enhance experiential learning through application assignments, she said.

The course will explore four principles for making positive changes:

  • Understanding the system and contextual factors that surround an area to be improved.
  • Collecting information or data to find patterns to track if changes are successful or not.
  • Applying principles of the psychology of change to engage and encourage others to make the change.
  • Initiating tests of change or “PDSAs”—that is: plan, do, study and act.

“We’re encouraging people to not only go to work to ‘do their work’ but also to ‘improve their work.  This is what is needed to transform health care,” Dolansky said.