Human Factors, Teamwork and Communication


The Human Factors, Teamwork and Communication course introduces the principles of human factors science as applied to systems of care. It teaches about the skills needed to function effectively and safely in teams in a modern clinical environment, and how to apply human factors principles to the design of tasks, the assessment of equipment, and the measurement of human performance.

Please send me an email about future Human Factors, Teamwork and Communication courses.


The Human Factors, Teamwork and Communication course provides the opportunity to learn more about and discuss the following topics:

  • Introduction to human factors
  • Surgical perspective on patient safety and human factors
  • Human factors in healthcare
  • Statistics and study design
  • Systems approach to quality and safety in healthcare
  • Practical skills in patient safety
  • Task analysis and synthesis
  • Equipment and workspace design
  • Behavioural safety
  • Teamwork, simulation and non-technical skills
  • Safety and quality improvement in healthcare.
  • Analysing and making recommendations from incidents.

The course introduces the topic area with the 5-dimension Systems Engineering In Patient Safety (SEIPS) model, then takes one dimension to focus on each day. Most lectures have an accompanying practical session to practice the skills learned.

Offered by Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences and the Department for Continuing Education, the taught week is led by Helen Higham, Consultant Anaesthetist at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford; Associate Professor in the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences; Director of the Oxford Simulation, Teaching and Research Centre (OxSTaR). It features face-to-face lectures and tutorials in small groups. Teaching is delivered by members of the Quality, Reliability, Safety and Teamwork Unit research group, and invited speakers from other prestigious patient safety units.

Class sizes are kept small to allow full interaction with tutors. Study before and after the course is supported online by a rich virtual learning environment.

Previous guest speakers have included:

  • Charles Vincent, Professor of Psychology at the University of Oxford
  • Louise Hull, Research Associate, Imperial College London
  • Lauren Morgan, Human Factors Research Scientist, University of Oxford
  • Stephanie Russ, Research Fellow, Imperial College London
  • Nick Sevdalis, Senior Lecturer, Imperial College London
  • Patrick Waterson, Senior Lecturer, Loughborough University

Comments from previous participants:

"This is a whole new concept and it's not only fascinating but something that should be taught to everyone in healthcare. I have gained a method by which to assess and hopefully tackle some of the more subtle problems we face in healthcare."

"More surgeons should be exposed to these topics. A fabulous module with a great instructor."

Programme details

This course can be taken:


This course will be held at the Department for Continuing Education, Rewley House, Oxford.


Short course participants who do not wish to undertake the assessed work required for academic credit but who do satisfy the course attendance requirements will receive a certificate of attendance. The sample above is an illustration only, and the wording will reflect the course and dates attended.

Those successfully completing the course for credit can request a CATS point transcript.


Description Costs
22-23 & earlier enrolled - MSc in Surgical Science and Practice £2475.00
22-23 & earlier enrolled - PG Cert in Patient Safety £2475.00
Short course in Surgical Science and Practice £3175.00
Students enrolled on the MSc in Surgical Science and Practice £2570.00
Students enrolled on the PG Cert in Patient Safety £2570.00


Details of funding opportunities including grants, bursaries and scholarships are available on our sources of funding page.


The course fee includes:

  • Tuition
  • Course materials
  • Refreshments and a three course lunch on each day of the course
  • Access to the following University of Oxford libraries and services:
    • Radcliffe Science Library
    • Rewley House Continuing Education Library
    • Bodleian Libraries e-Resources
  • Access to facilities from the Department for Continuing Education, including:
    • The Graduate School
    • WebLearn virtual learning environment

Stand Alone fees for June 2024 have not yet been confirmed. 


Dr Helen Higham

Module Lead

Dr Helen Higham is a Consultant Anaesthetist at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.  She is an Associate Professor in the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences and Director of the Oxford Simulation, Teaching and Research Centre (OxSTaR) which opened in 2008She is a founding member and past president of the Association for Simulated Practice in Healthcare, a UK organisation promoting simulation for use in training and healthcare systems analysis

She has always had a keen interest in medical education and has been the Director of Undergraduate Teaching in the Nuffield Division of Anaesthetics since she took up her post in 2001. In 2015 she co-founded the Patient Safety Academy (with Professor Peter McCulloch) with the primary aim of providing courses on human factors and quality improvement for healthcare professionals across Thames Valley and beyond.

Helen is also active as a researcher and in 2018 completed her DPhil investigating the significance and impact of situation awareness in medical practice. She heads an active research group including four DPhil students, two post-doctoral researchers and four simulation fellows, with specific interests in patient safety, clinical education and teamwork in healthcare.

Assessment methods

Assessment will be based on submission of a set written assignment, not exceeding 4,000 words. The assessment is only undertaken by those taking the course for academic credit.

Academic credit

Those wishing to may apply to take the course with accreditation. The University of Oxford Department for Continuing Education offers Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS) points for the course. Participants attending at least 75% of the taught course and successfully completing assessed assignments are eligible to earn credit equivalent to 20 CATS-equivalent points which may be counted towards a postgraduate qualification.


Application deadline: four weeks before the commencement of the course.

We strongly recommend that you download and save files before completing to ensure that all your changes are saved.

This course requires you to complete and submit the application form below and a copy of your CV. If you are applying to take this course for academic credit you will also need to complete section two of the reference form and forward it to your referee for completion. Please note that if you are not applying to take the course for academic credit then you do not need to submit a reference.

Please ensure you read the guidance notes before completing the application form, as any errors resulting from failure to do so may delay your application.

Places on the course are limited, so early application is strongly recommended. Once we have received your completed application it will be considered by the admissions panel.

This course is part of the MSc in Surgical Science and Practice. If you would like to apply for the MSc in Surgical Science and Practice please visit the programme page.

Selection criteria

To apply for this course you should:

  • be a graduate or have successfully completed a professional training course
  • have at least two years' professional work experience in the health service or a health-related field
  • be able to combine intensive classroom learning with the application of the principles and practices within the work place
  • demonstrate a suitable level of English (if this is not your first language).


Accommodation is available at the Rewley House Residential Centre, within the Department for Continuing Education, in central Oxford. The comfortable, en-suite, study-bedrooms have been rated as 4-Star Campus accommodation under the Quality In Tourism scheme, and come with tea- and coffee-making facilities, free Wi-Fi access and Freeview TV. Guests can take advantage of the excellent dining facilities and common room bar, where they may relax and network with others on the programme.

IT requirements

This course uses the Departments online assignment submission system and online courseware. In order to participate in the course, and to prepare and submit your course assignments you will need access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification. Students of this course may use the student computing facilities provided in Departmental buildings.