CPSO (Certified Patient Safety Officer) Certification

The International Board for Certification of Safety Managers, also known as BCHCM, was established in 1976 as a not-for-profit independent credentialing organization. The Board also establishes certification and re-certification requirements for following credentials in addition to the Certified Patient Safety Officer (CPSO). The Board operates as an independent professional credentialing organization that is not affiliated with any other membership group, association, or lobbying body. The Board exists solely for the purpose of issuing individual certifications to qualified candidates. Our mission is to 'Upgrade the Profession' by offering real world and practical certifications.


Certified Patient Safety Officer (CPSO) Background

The Board developed the CPSO credential to meet a need for a practical but professional certification in patient safety. The CPSO program certified the first 12 candidates in 2006. Current CPSO credential holders include healthcare executives, risk managers, quality improvement coordinators, nursing leaders, safety directors, patient safety officers, consultants, physicians, pharmacy personnel, infection prevention coordinator and other qualified healthcare or medical professionals. The Board's patient safety exam addresses competencies across the continuum of care including clinical, support, administrative, best practices, patient safety goals, and related research. The exam focuses on organizational culture, systems methodologies, effective communication, and coordination/promotion of patient safety-related initiatives. Candidates must demonstrate on the challenging exam their understanding of the concepts and principles vital to patient safety progress and innovation.

Certified Patient Safety Practitioner (CPSP)

The Board recently decided to offer patient safety candidates a choice when making application for patient safety certification. Those working in healthcare facilities in the role of patient safety officers, managers, champions, or coordinators, choose to use the established Certified Patient Safety Officer (CPSO) credential as their professional designation. Professionals engaged in other aspects of patient safety including those serving in the areas such as, but limited to, (1) promotion, (2) consultation, (3) research, (4) education, (5) information technology, (6) quality improvement, (7) risk management, and (6) patient safety advocacy roles could choose to use the Certified Patient Safety Practitioner (CPSP) credential as their professional designation.

Exam Development

Healthcare facilities may develop job descriptions and/or have expectations from their emergency management staff that do not correspond exactly with the CPSO exam knowledge requirements. The exam was developed with the participation of a 'volunteer beta team'. The Board also worked with a panel of 'subject matter experts' to review the exam during its development. The CPSO Exam is statistically analyzed to ensure the validity of each item and to determine the continued reliability of overall exam.

Exam Content

Exams are comprehensive in scope and contain from 100-125 multiple choice questions. The exam content has been developed with the assistance practicing professionals and subject matter experts. The Board statistically analyzes each exam to ensure the validity of all questions. The Board also uses analytical techniques to ensure the reliability of each exam versions to access the competency of each candidate. Each exam may contain 5 to 15 'trial questions' that are being validated for use on future exam forms. The exam contains questions from the following six broad competency areas. The alphabetical listings under each heading below are only representative of topics related to that particular Competency Area. This exam broad exam outline was designed to focus candidates on the type of topics that are addressed on the certification exam. The exam may contain concepts and principles not listed in the outline.


1. Patient Safety Fundamentals, Concepts, and Principles (35% of Questions)

    1. Senior Leadership, Management, and Coordination
    2. Change Analysis, First Order Change, and Second Order Change
    3. System Thinking (Open and Closed Systems)
    4. Understanding Safety Cultures (Overt and Covert)
    5. Trust, Transparency, Choice, and Voice
    6. Learning Environments, Accountability, and Discipline
    7. Delivering Safe and Effective Care
    8. Continuous Improvement and Patient Safety
    9. Teamwork, Just Cultures, and Communication
    10. Defining Patient Safety and Related Terms
    11. Swiss Cheese Model (Blunt and Sharp End)
    12. IOM Patient Safety Reports and Sentinel Event Lessons Learned
    13. Roles of Patient Safety Offices and Practitioners
    14. Patient Safety Research
    15. Medical Staff Credentialing and Physician Involvement
    16. Patient Safety and Organizational Interfacing
    17. National Patient Safety Goals
    18. Emergency Management, Evacuations, and Patient Care
    19. Patient Safety in Outpatient Facilities and Nursing Facilities
    20. Disclosure and Advanced Directives
    21. Patient Safety Best Practices and Clinical Guidelines
    22. Defining Error and Adverse Events

2. Patient Safety Management Tools (30% of Questions)

    1. Safety Systems Methods
    2. Patient Educational Activities
    3. High Reliability Methods
    4. Incident and Error Reporting Systems
    5. Open and Closed Systems
    6. Incident Investigation Processes
    7. Root Cause Analysis (RCA), Improvement Methods, Failure Mode & Effect Analysis, etc.
    8. Improving Staff Communication and Continuous Learning Methods
    9. Six Sigma, Lean Methods, Crew Resource Management, etc.
    10. Reliability Science, Benchmarking, and Functions of Risk
    11. High Reliability Organizations, Designs, and Characteristics
    12. Proactive Safety: Science and Practice
    13. Human Factors, Behaviors, and People/Technology Interface
    14. Integrated Component of a Healthcare Safety System
    15. Team Improvement Methods, TeamSTEPPS, etc.
    16. Culture Assessment & Change Methods/Tools

3. Patient Risks (10-15% of Questions)

    1. Fall Prevention and Bed Related Issues
    2. Negligence, Failure to Treat, and Misdiagnosis
    3. Medication Errors
    4. Surgical Wound and Other Hospital Acquired Infections
    5. Patient Moving & Positioning
    6. Suicide & Elopement
    7. Wrong Site, Wrong Procedure, Wrong Patient Surgery
    8. Central Line and Ventilator Related Infections
    9. Restraint Safety
    10. Surgical Related Issues and Anesthesia Safety
    11. Food Safety and Nutrition Issues
    12. Medical Equipment Adverse Events
    13. Security, Violence, and Abduction Risks
    14. Rapid Response Teams and Systems
    15. Adverse Events After Discharge
    16. Medication Reconciliation
    17. Environment and Facility Risks

4. Standards & And Organizations (5-10% of Questions)

    1. Accreditation Standards (JC, AOA, DNV, CMS)
    2. Federal Agencies (FDA, CDC, AHRQ, CMS, IOM, etc.)
    3. Voluntary Organizations (AHA, NFPA, NPSF, ASHE, AHRM, AHE, IHI, etc.)
    4. Patient Safety Legislation and Organizations

5. Special Patient Safety Topics (5-10% of Questions)

    1. Nursing and Other Healthcare Staffing Issues
    2. Terrorism Response such as Triage, Treatment, & Decontamination
    3. General Safety, Community Safety, & Disaster Response
    4. Diseases, Infectious Outbreaks, Pandemic, & Epidemics
    5. Evacuation, Medical Surge, etc.

6. New Developments, Technology Hazards, And Current Events (5-10% of Questions)


Example Questions


  1. Which term does the Institute of Medicine (IOM) use to describe a patient injury resulting from poor medical management rather than underlying disease?
    1. An adverse event*
    2. Near miss
    3. An error
    4. An incidental injury
  2. Which of the following would be the primary purpose for identifying and analyzing a medical error that does not produce any patient injury or harm?
    1. To report the error to state medical and nursing boards
    2. To identify and hold accountable the person or persons responsible
    3. To notify the liability insurance carrier about possible future adverse events
    4. Help identify flaws within the system and any associated sub systems*
  3. Which of the following actions would contribute the most to reducing risks of organizational acquired infections in a hospitalized patient?
    1. Use disposable medical supplies at all times in treatment areas
    2. Establish a multi-disciplinary infection control committee to evaluate risks
    3. Require staff to follow established hand sanitizing protocols*
    4. Implement appropriate the CDC isolation precaution(s) as necessary
  4. Which of the following would be the least important action to take when attempting to prioritize intervention measures after an adverse patient event?
    1. Determine which staff member made the error that cause patient harm*
    2. Knowing the historical error rate for the event that occurred
    3. Determine the frequency of the events and the level of harm
    4. Consider the feasibility of implementing any particular intervention
  5. Which of the following would be most effective action for reducing risks of drug-to drug-interactions?
    1. Requiring staff to ensure appropriate container labeling
    2. Documenting complete medical and medication history of the patient*
    3. Identifying the patient before administering drugs by using redundant measures
    4. Never use abbreviations to identify drugs unless previously approved
  6. Which of the following would not be a systematic approach to patient safety?
    1. Establishing an effective reporting system
    2. Developing procedures to deal with medical negligence*
    3. Creating a care environment that doesn’t blame individuals
    4. Making the assumption that every person intends to do the right thing