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 health care, 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.

This course is a core course of the Master of Health Leadership and Management Program, comprising 6 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

Key contact

Dr Ramesh Walpola
Course Convenor
+61 (2) 9385 1136

Who should do this course?

We welcome students from any discipline and level of experience to contribute perspectives and understandings. In addition, we encourage you to engage with the material, ask questions, discuss relevant issues with teachers and colleagues, and regard the available literature with a critical eye.

Course outcomes

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 health care to enhance patient safety, improve clinical systems, and best manage clinical and organisational risks.

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

  • demonstrate understanding of the basic ingredients necessary for continuous quality improvement in health care
  • appreciate the potential or perceived risks and impacts of implementing new technologies to enhance quality in the health sector to support the decision-making process
  • examine and critically discuss the key theories, methods and skills that have been found to enable continuous quality improvement in healthcare contexts, including Root Cause Analysis
  • propose and justify a workplace improvement project and consider its implications for enhancing the quality of care
  • assess your own managerial assumptions, standpoints and approaches for informing strategic approaches to policy and change in health service contexts.

Learning & teaching

The enhancement of healthcare quality and safety requires practical competencies in addition to theoretical knowledge. Therefore, while this course is based on theory and evidence, it also focuses on the application of knowledge and development of managerial skills. A particular aim of this course is to expose you to a number of practical tools designed to improve managerial and organisational performance in relation to healthcare quality and safety.


Assessment Task 1 – Risk Analysis
Weighting: 20%
Length: 750 words

Assessment Task 2 – Clinical Incident Investigation: Theory and Practice
Weighting: 40%
Length: 2000 words

Assessment Task 3 – Quality Improvement Project
Weighting: 40%
Length: 2000 words

Readings & resources 

Learning resources for this course consist of the following:

  • course notes and readings
  • weekly lectures (either face-to-face or online)
  • Moodle discussion board
  • webinars (external students only).

Please note there are no set texts for this course. However, the readings are a key element of the course, and are provided for each section. They are vital in providing insights and understanding into how change operates in each particular area under review. Wide reading on the course topics is encouraged.