Intensive care unit safety culture and outcomes: a US multicenter study

Int J Qual Health Care. 2010 Jun;22(3):151-61. doi: 10.1093/intqhc/mzq017. Epub 2010 Apr 9.


Objective: Safety culture may influence patient outcomes, but evidence is limited. We sought to determine if intensive care unit (ICU) safety culture is independently associated with outcomes.

Design: Cohort study combining safety culture survey data with the Project IMPACT Critical Care Medicine (PICCM) clinical database.

Setting: Thirty ICUs participating in the PICCM database.

Participants: A total of 65 978 patients admitted January 2001-March 2005.

Interventions: None.

Main outcome measures: Hospital mortality and length of stay (LOS).

Methods: From December 2003 to April 2004, we surveyed study ICUs using the Safety Attitudes Questionnaire-ICU version, a validated instrument that assesses safety culture across six factors. We calculated factor mean and percent-positive scores (% respondents with mean score > or =75 on a 0-100 scale) for each ICU, and generated case-mix adjusted, patient-level, ICU-clustered regression analyses to determine the independent association of safety culture and outcome.

Results: We achieved a 47.9% response (2103 of 4373 ICU personnel). Culture scores were mostly low to moderate and varied across ICUs (range: 13-88, percent-positive scores). After adjustment for patient, hospital and ICU characteristics, for every 10% decrease in ICU perceptions of management percent-positive score, the odds ratio for hospital mortality was 1.24 (95% CI: 1.07-1.44; P = 0.005). For every 10% decrease in ICU safety climate percent-positive score, LOS increased 15% (95% CI: 1-30%; P = 0.03). Sensitivity analyses for non-response bias consistently associated safety climate with outcome, but also yielded some counterintuitive results.

Conclusion: In a multicenter study conducted in the USA, perceptions of management and safety climate were moderately associated with outcomes. Future work should further develop methods of assessing safety culture and association with outcomes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Hospital Bed Capacity / statistics & numerical data
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units / organization & administration*
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Organizational Culture*
  • Perception
  • Personnel Staffing and Scheduling / statistics & numerical data
  • Safety Management / organization & administration*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States