The safety checklist program: creating a culture of safety in intensive care units

Jt Comm J Qual Improv. 2002 Jun;28(6):306-15. doi: 10.1016/s1070-3241(02)28030-x.


Background: In 1999 the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System began a safety checklist program to help build a culture of safety among nurses, respiratory therapists, and unit maintenance providers in the intensive care units (ICUs). Program objectives were to (a) create the opportunity for each participating staff member to view his or her work and unit environment in a broader safety context; (b) establish clear, concise, and measurable standards that staff would identify and value as important safety factors; (c) develop a data collection methodology that would minimize confirmation bias; and (d) correct safety deficits immediately.

Data management: Staff measure compliance with safety standards twice daily and record results on a form specifically designed for the project. Data are transferred to a spreadsheet, and graphic presentations are posted in each ICU. Staff periodically adjust both standards and data collection procedures.

Summary: Staff can articulate how the program is making the ICU a safer environment. Nursing response to a recent major error reflects the growth that has occurred since the program's inception. Safety checks performed by ICU staff are critical in maintaining a constant level of safety. Although the effect on untoward events was not measured, the potential for incidents, including medication and intravenous errors, nosocomial infections, ventilator complications, and restraint complications may be reduced. The program invests bedside clinicians in writing safety standards, creates a partnership between staff and the clinical risk manager, and provides executive leaders an opportunity to demonstrate support of a culture beyond blame.

MeSH terms

  • Data Collection
  • Guideline Adherence
  • Hospitals, Veterans / organization & administration
  • Hospitals, Veterans / standards*
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination
  • Intensive Care Units / organization & administration
  • Intensive Care Units / standards*
  • Medical Errors / prevention & control*
  • Michigan
  • Models, Organizational
  • Nursing Service, Hospital / standards
  • Organizational Culture*
  • Quality Indicators, Health Care
  • Respiration, Artificial / standards
  • Safety Management / methods*
  • Systems Analysis*
  • Total Quality Management / methods*
  • United States
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs