Pressures from rising patient numbers and overcrowding in emergency departments (EDs) are putting patients' safety at risk. Beyond improved provision of resources, two elements are essential to patient safety in emergency care - work culture and staff training. In traditional training environments, the teacher dispenses knowledge to nursing students in a classroom setting. However, problem-based learning (PBL) and the related concept of team-based learning (TBL) aim to enhance learners' knowledge and skills in non-technical subjects, such as patient safety, as well as their ability to address challenges they encounter in clinical practice. This article explores the theories that underpin PBL and TBL and discusses how they can be used by nurse educators to motivate staff and improve patient safety in the ED. © 2020 RCN Publishing Company Ltd. All rights reserved. Not to be copied, transmitted or recorded in any way, in whole or part, without prior permission of the publishers.