Work stress and patient safety: observer-rated work stressors as predictors of characteristics of safety-related events reported by young nurses

Ergonomics. 2006;49(5-6):457-69. doi: 10.1080/00140130600568451.


This study investigates the link between workplace stress and the 'non-singularity' of patient safety-related incidents in the hospital setting. Over a period of 2 working weeks 23 young nurses from 19 hospitals in Switzerland documented 314 daily stressful events using a self-observation method (pocket diaries); 62 events were related to patient safety. Familiarity of safety-related events and probability of recurrence, as indicators of non-singularity, were the dependent variables in multilevel regression analyses. Predictor variables were both situational (self-reported situational control, safety compliance) and chronic variables (job stressors such as time pressure, or concentration demands and job control). Chronic work characteristics were rated by trained observers. The most frequent safety-related stressful events included incomplete or incorrect documentation (40.3%), medication errors (near misses 21%), delays in delivery of patient care (9.7%), and violent patients (9.7%). Familiarity of events and probability of recurrence were significantly predicted by chronic job stressors and low job control in multilevel regression analyses. Job stressors and low job control were shown to be risk factors for patient safety. The results suggest that job redesign to enhance job control and decrease job stressors may be an important intervention to increase patient safety.

MeSH terms

  • Ergonomics
  • Humans
  • Medical Errors / psychology*
  • Medical Errors / statistics & numerical data
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / psychology*
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / standards
  • Occupational Health*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Safety Management*
  • Self-Assessment
  • Stress, Psychological*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Switzerland
  • Workload / psychology*
  • Workplace / psychology*