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What is a Culture of Patient Safety?

Cultivating a “culture of patient safety” may seem like a dauntingly ambitious goal, but the rewards are vast. No transformation is more essential to engaging health care professionals, to effect and sustain improvement, to revitalize the workplace, and to turn the tide of the ongoing patient safety epidemic.

It is important to consider implementing a culture of patient safety at your health care organization – whether it is large or small, a hospital, large group practice, or other type medical facility. There’s a lot leaders can do to support and foster this transformation.

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Culture of Patient Safety: What It Looks Like Although many definitions exist, a culture of patient safety is often defined as an organization’s collective commitment to patient safety as the number one priority. Further, a robust safety culture is marked by the following key features:  

  • acknowledgment of the high-risk nature of an organization's activities and the determination to achieve consistently safe operations;
  • a preoccupation with safety;
  • an emphasis on systems improvement to support performance;
  • organizational commitment of resources and encouragement of collaboration across ranks and disciplines to seek solutions to patient safety concerns;
  • proactive reporting of unsafe conditions; and
  • a “just culture” response to error that includes frequent debriefing and sharing of “lessons learned” and an atmosphere of teamwork in which a blame-free environment and mutual respect enables candid discussion among employees and the swift escalation of patient safety concerns.

In next week’s blog, CAPAssurance will provide actionable advice for health care leaders in order to develop a culture of patient safety at your organization.


Author Catherine Miller, RN, JD, is a senior risk management & patient safety specialist at the Cooperative of American Physicians, Inc. (CAP) in its CAPAssurance, A Risk Purchasing Group, program that offers hospitals, large medical groups, and other health care facilities access to top-rated liability protection and risk management services.


If you have questions about this article, please contact us. This information should not be considered legal advice applicable to a specific situation. Legal guidance for individual matters should be obtained from a retained attorney.