Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Attitudes and barriers to incident reporting: a collaborative hospital study
  1. S M Evans1,
  2. J G Berry2,
  3. B J Smith3,
  4. A Esterman4,
  5. P Selim3,
  6. J O’Shaughnessy3,
  7. M DeWit3
  1. 1Department of Medicine, University of Adelaide, South Australia, 5005
  2. 2Research Centre for Injury Studies, Flinders University, South Australia, 5001
  3. 3Clinical Epidemiology and Health Outcomes Unit, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, South Australia, 5011
  4. 4School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of South Australia, South Australia, 5000
  1. Correspondence to:
 MsS Evans
 Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University, Alfred Hospital, Prahran, Victoria, Australia; sue.evans{at}


Objectives: To assess awareness and use of the current incident reporting system and to identify factors inhibiting reporting of incidents in hospitals.

Design, setting and participants: Anonymous survey of 186 doctors and 587 nurses from diverse clinical settings in six South Australian hospitals (response rate = 70.7% and 73.6%, respectively).

Main outcome measures: Knowledge and use of the current reporting system; barriers to incident reporting.

Results: Most doctors and nurses (98.3%) were aware that their hospital had an incident reporting system. Nurses were more likely than doctors to know how to access a report (88.3% v 43.0%; relative risk (RR) 2.05, 95% CI 1.61 to 2.63), to have ever completed a report (89.2% v 64.4%; RR 1.38, 95% CI 1.19 to 1.61), and to know what to do with the completed report (81.9% v 49.7%; RR 1.65, 95% CI 1.27 to 2.13). Staff were more likely to report incidents which are habitually reported, often witnessed, and usually associated with immediate outcomes such as patient falls and medication errors requiring corrective treatment. Near misses and incidents which occur over time such as pressure ulcers and DVT due to inadequate prophylaxis were least likely to be reported. The most frequently stated barrier to reporting for doctors and nurses was lack of feedback (57.7% and 61.8% agreeing, respectively).

Conclusions: Both doctors and nurses believe they should report most incidents, but nurses do so more frequently than doctors. To improve incident reporting, especially among doctors, clarification is needed of which incidents should be reported, the process needs to be simplified, and feedback given to reporters.

  • incident reporting
  • patient safety
  • nurses’ views
  • doctors’ views

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.