Sociocultural Factors Influencing Incident Reporting Among Physicians and Nurses: Understanding Frames Underlying Self- and Peer-Reporting Practices

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Voluntary reporting of incidents is a common approach for improving patient safety. Reporting behaviors may vary because of different frames within and across professions, where frames are templates that individuals hold and that guide interpretation of events. Our objectives were to investigate frames of physicians and nurses who report into a voluntary incident reporting system as well as to understand enablers and inhibitors of self-reporting and peer reporting.


This is a qualitative case study—confidential in-depth interviews with physicians and nurses in General Internal Medicine in a Canadian tertiary care hospital.


Frames that health care practitioners use in their reporting practices serve as enablers and inhibitors for self-reporting and peer reporting. Frames that inhibit reporting are shared by physicians and nurses, such as the fear of blame frame regarding self-reporting and the tattletale frame regarding peer reporting. These frames are underpinned by a focus on the individual, despite the organizational message of reporting for learning. A learning frame is an enabler to incident reporting. Viewing the objective of voluntary incident reporting as learning allows practitioners to depersonalize incident reporting. The focus becomes preventing recurrence and not the individual reporting or reported on.


Physicians and nurses use various frames that bound their views of self and peer incident reporting—further progress should incorporate an understanding of these deep-seated views and beliefs.

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