Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Evaluation of the culture of safety: survey of clinicians and managers in an academic medical center
  1. P J Pronovost1,
  2. B Weast1,
  3. C G Holzmueller1,
  4. B J Rosenstein1,
  5. R P Kidwell1,
  6. K B Haller1,
  7. E R Feroli1,
  8. J B Sexton2,
  9. H R Rubin1
  1. 1The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, MD, USA
  2. 2University of Texas, Center of Excellence for Patient Safety Research and Practice, Austin, TX, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr P J Pronovost
 Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, The Johns Hopkins University, 600 N Wolfe Street, Meyer 295, Baltimore, MD 21287, USA;


Background: Despite the emphasis on patient safety in health care, few organizations have evaluated the extent to which safety is a strategic priority or their culture supports patient safety. In response to the Institute of Medicine’s report and to an organizational commitment to patient safety, we conducted a systematic assessment of safety at the Johns Hopkins Hospital (JHH) and, from this, developed a strategic plan to improve safety. The specific aims of this study were to evaluate the extent to which the culture supports patient safety at JHH and the extent to which safety is a strategic priority.

Methods: During July and August 2001 we implemented two surveys in disparate populations to assess patient safety. The Safety Climate Scale (SCS) was administered to a sample of physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and other ICU staff. SCS assesses perceptions of a strong and proactive organizational commitment to patient safety. The second survey instrument, called Strategies for Leadership (SLS), evaluated the extent to which safety was a strategic priority for the organization. This survey was administered to clinical and administrative leaders.

Results: We received 395 completed SCS surveys from 82% of the departments and 86% of the nursing units. Staff perceived that supervisors had a greater commitment to safety than senior leaders. Nurses had higher scores than physicians for perceptions of safety. Twenty three completed SLS surveys were received from 77% of the JHH Patient Safety Committee members and 50% of the JHH Management Committee members. Management Committee responses were more positive than Patient Safety Committee, indicating that management perceived safety efforts to be further developed. Strategic planning received the lowest scores from both committees.

Conclusions: We believe this is one of the first large scale efforts to measure institutional culture of safety and then design improvements in health care. The survey results suggest that strategic planning of patient safety needs enhancement. Several efforts to improve our culture of safety were initiated based on these results, which should lead to measurable improvements in patient safety.

  • patient safety
  • culture of safety
  • organizational culture
  • change management
  • leadership

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Funded in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, grant number U18HS11902-01.

Linked Articles

  • Action points
    Tim Albert