An irreplaceable safety culture

Crit Care Clin. 2005 Jan;21(1):31-41, viii. doi: 10.1016/j.ccc.2004.08.002.


Intensive care unit (ICU) clinicians are sources of errors and of resilience. When they learn how to juggle many competing goals, remain vigilant, and tell safety stories--all in the context of changing technologies and demand--they can create safe settings of care. Other strategies (eg, using computerized tools and implementing safety procedures) are important, but alone they are not sufficient. An ICU needs a safety culture that is rooted in a committed leadership, the acknowledgment that error is inevitable, a reporting system, and continuous learning. The all too common norm, "no harm no foul," is an obstacle. ICU leaders can use a campaign strategy to spread the safety practices that sustain a safety culture. They should attend to the political, marketing, and military aspects of such campaigns and recognize that people's time and attention are limited and built projects from existing ongoing pilots. Pilots can compete for people's attention; it has pull when it exemplifies a moral idea, simplifies work, and gives the health care professional more control and feedback. Under these conditions, the campaign will release individuals' passions and add energy and insight to the campaign itself.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Communication
  • Critical Care / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Male
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / complications
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / surgery
  • Quality of Health Care*
  • Safety*