Purpose: To organize the properties of safety culture addressed by many studies and to develop a conceptual culture of safety model.
Design and methods: A comprehensive review of the culture of safety literature within the U.S. hospital setting. The review was a qualitative meta-analysis from which we generated a conceptual culture of safety framework and developed a typology of the safety culture literature.
Findings: Seven subcultures of patient safety culture were identified: (a) leadership, (b) teamwork, (c) evidence-based, (d) communication, (e) learning, (f) just, and (g) patient-centered.
Conclusions: Safety culture is a complex phenomenon that is not clearly understood by hospital leaders, thus making it difficult to operationalize. We found senior leadership accountability key to an organization-wide culture of safety.
Clinical relevance: Hospital leaders are increasingly pressured by federal, state, regulatory, and consumer groups to demonstrate an organizational safety culture that assures patients are safe from medical error. This article defines a safety culture framework that may support hospital leadership answer the question "what is a patient safety culture?"