Promoting safety: longer-term responses of three health professional groups to a safety improvement programme

Int J Health Care Qual Assur. 2007;20(7):555-71. doi: 10.1108/09526860710822707.


Purpose: Patient safety has been addressed since 2002 in the health system of New South Wales, Australia via a Safety Improvement Programme (SIP), which took a system-wide approach. The programme involved two-day courses to educate healthcare professionals to monitor and report incidents and analyse adverse events by conducting root cause analysis (RCA). This paper aims to predict that all professions would favour SIP but that their work and educational histories would result in doctors holding the least and nurses the most positive attitudes. Alternative hypotheses were that doctors' relative power and other professions' team-working skills would advantage the respective groups when conducting RCAs.

Design/methodology/approach: Responses to a 2005 follow-up questionnaire survey of doctors (n = 53), nurses (209) and allied health staff (59), who had participated in SIP courses, were analysed to compare: their attitudes toward the course; safety skills acquired and applied; perceived benefits of SIP and RCAs; and their experiences conducting RCAs.

Findings: Significant differences existed between professions' responses with nurses being the most and doctors the least affirming. Allied health responses resembled those of nurses more than those of doctors. The professions' experiences conducting RCAs (number conducted, leadership, barriers encountered, findings implemented) were similar.

Research limitations/implications: Observational studies are needed to determine possible professional differences in the conduct of RCAs and any ensuing culture change that this may be eliciting.

Practical implications: There is strong professional support for SIPs but less endorsement from doctors, who tend not to prefer the knowledge content and multidisciplinary teaching environment considered optimal for safety improvement education. This is a dilemma that needs to be addressed.

Originality/value: Few longer-term SIPs' assessments have been realised and the differences between professional groups have not been well quantified. As a result of this paper, benefits of and barriers to conducting RCAs are now more clearly understood.

MeSH terms

  • Allied Health Personnel / education*
  • Allied Health Personnel / psychology
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Competency-Based Education*
  • Education, Medical, Continuing
  • Education, Nursing, Continuing
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Errors / prevention & control
  • Medical Staff / education*
  • Medical Staff / psychology
  • National Health Programs
  • New South Wales
  • Nursing Staff / education*
  • Nursing Staff / psychology
  • Organizational Culture
  • Quality of Health Care*
  • Safety Management / organization & administration*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires