Nurses' and nursing assistants' perceptions of patient safety culture in nursing homes

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To evaluate whether perceptions of patient safety in nursing homes vary by length of employment, type of employee, and shift worked.


Cross-sectional study.


Twenty-six nursing homes in Ohio participating in a randomized trial to test the effectiveness of a clinical informatics tool to improve patient safety during the medication monitoring.


Nurses (n=367) and nursing assistants (n=636) employed at the time of the survey in the summer and fall of 2003.

Main outcome measurements

Resident safety questions included 34 items on different aspects of resident safety (overall safety perception, teamwork within and between departments, communication openness, feedback and communication about error, non-punitive response to error, organizational learning, management expectations, and actions promoting safety, staffing, and management support for patient safety).


Overall perceptions of resident safety by employees were acceptable, with clear management communication of safety goals. Approximately 40% of nursing staff found it difficult to make changes to improve things most or all of the time; similar proportions indicated that management seriously considered staff suggestions to improve resident safety; only half reported management discussions with staff to prevent recurrence of mistakes. Regardless of staff type, one in five reported feeling punished and two in five reported that reporting of errors was seen as a ‘personal attack’.


Interventions to change the safety culture in nursing homes are warranted. Nursing homes need guidance on how to use information to implement safety improvement projects in the context of a strict regulatory environment which may prohibit innovative system change.

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