Emergency medical services provider perceptions of the nature of adverse events and near-misses in out-of-hospital care: an ethnographic view

Acad Emerg Med. 2008 Jul;15(7):633-40. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.2008.00147.x.


Objectives: The objectives were to examine the perceptions of emergency medical services (EMS) providers regarding near-misses and adverse events in out-of-hospital care.

Methods: This study uses qualitative methods (focus groups, interviews, event reporting) to examine the perceptions of EMS providers regarding near-misses and adverse events in out-of-hospital care. Results were reviewed by five researchers; analytic domains were assigned and emerging themes were identified. Descriptive statistics were calculated.

Results: Fifteen in-depth interviews (73% advanced life support [ALS], 40% volunteer, and 87% male) resulted in 50 event descriptions. Eleven additional event reports were obtained from the anonymous reporting system. Of the 61 total events, 27 (44%) were near-misses and 34 (56%) were adverse events. Fourteen (23%) involved a child (< 19 years). Types of error included 33 clinical judgment (54%), 13 skill performance (21%), 9 medication event (15%), 3 destination choice (5%), and 3 others (5%). For the 21 cases where the provider discussed the event, 10 (48%) were reported to a physician, and 9 (43%) to a supervisor; 4 (19%) were not reported, and none were reported to the patient. Focus groups supported interview and event report data. Emerging themes included a focus on the errors of others and a "blame-and-shame" culture.

Conclusions: Adverse events and near-misses were common among the EMS providers who participated in this study, but the culture discourages sharing of this information. Participants attributed many events to systems issues and to inadequacies of other provider groups. Further study is necessary to investigate whether these hypothesis-generating themes are generalizable to the EMS community as a whole.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Emergency Medical Services*
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Medical Errors / statistics & numerical data*
  • Perception*
  • Workforce