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(Photo: Stig Marlon Weston)

Patient Safety Culture Measurement

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The “In Safe Hands” campaign is currently measuring patient safety culture among professionals in all care giving units in every hospital. In addition, the campaign is now piloting a similar survey on patient safety culture among a selection of ambulatory clinics with regular general practitioners and emergency care.

What is patient safety culture?

The notion of culture implies ”the way we do things here”. The patient safety culture describes to what extent the professional working environment is characterized by routines and priorities that prevent adverse events and patient harm.

How important is patient safety culture?

Patient safety culture is very important when it comes to explaining the variety in adverse events and patient harm between different care giving units and hospitals. All employees in healthcare services wish to avoid adverse events, however sometimes established routines and practices represent a threat to patient safety. First and foremost it is a question to what degree a clinic prioritizes and values safe patient treatment, for instance by giving positive feedback to employees that need assistance, or by ensuring that professionals have the necessary competence for the procedures they are set to do. It is also a matter of to which extent a clinic practices routines for learning from adverse events.

How do we measure patient safety culture?

We are measuring patient safety culture by asking all employees involved in the treatment of patients about how they feel that adverse events and patient harm is handled and discussed in the workplace environment. For the survey we use a Norwegian version of Safety Attitudes Questionnaire – SAQ, which has been used in patient safety culture measurements in several other countries.

How do we carry out the survey?

All employees with direct patient contact receive an e-mail with an electronic version of the questionnaire. The survey treats every respondent anonymously, and it takes around 15 minutes to complete the questionnaire. We aim at a 70 per cent response rate.

What happens next?

The measuring of patient safety culture will provide hospitals and clinics with more knowledge about how the employees experience that their healthcare institution works to reduce the patient harm.

The hospitals are strongly encouraged to discuss the results with their employees at every care giving unit, in order to identify areas of improvement and interventions. The results should impact on superior plans and strategies aimed at improving patient safety. The campaign also encourages every hospital and clinic to establish routines to ensure the following-up of results and requirements.

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