The AHRQ PSNet Collection comprises an extensive selection of resources relevant to the patient safety community. These resources come in a variety of formats, including literature, research, tools, and Web sites. Resources are identified using the National Library of Medicine’s Medline database, various news and content aggregators, and the expertise of the AHRQ PSNet editorial and technical teams.
Soto C, Dixon-Woods M, Tarrant C. Arch Dis Child. 2022;107:1038-1042.
Children with complex medical needs are vulnerable to patient safety threats. This qualitative study explored the perspectives of parents with children living at home with a central venous access device (CVAD). Parents highlight the persistent fear of central line-associated blood stream infections as well as the importance of maintaining a sense of normalcy for their children.
Dixon-Woods M, Aveling EL, Campbell A, et al. J Health Serv Res Policy. 2022;27:88-95.
A key aspect of patient safety culture is the perception that all team members should speak up about safety concerns. In this study of 165 frontline and senior leader participants, deciding to report a safety event (referred to as a “voiceable concern”) is influenced by four factors: certainty that something is wrong and is an occasion for voice; system versus conduct concerns, forgivability, and normalization. Organizational culture and context effect whether an incident is considered a voiceable concern.
Martin GP, Chew S, Dixon-Woods M. Soc Sci Med. 2021;287:114375.
Engaging patients and families in patient safety efforts and encouraging them to speak up about concerns is an ongoing healthcare priority. Based on narrative interviews with people raising and responding to concerns and complaints in six English National Health Service (NHS) organizations, this study explored how substandard responses to concerns and complaints can lead to organizational failures.
Wu F, Dixon-Woods M, Aveling E-L, et al. Soc Sci Med. 2021;280:114050.
Reluctance of healthcare team members to speak up about concerns can hinder patient safety. The authors conducted semi-structured interviews with 165 participants (health system leadership, managers, healthcare providers, and staff) about policies, practice, and culture around voicing concerns related to quality and safety. Findings suggest that both formal and informal hierarchies can undermine the ability and desire of individuals to speak up, but that informal organization (such as personal relationships) can motivate and support speaking up behaviors.
Liberati EG, Tarrant C, Willars J, et al. BMJ Qual Saf. 2021;30:444-456.
Maternal harm is a sentinel event and improving maternal safety is receiving increased attention in both policy and clinical settings. The researchers used qualitative methods to generate a new plain language framework identifying safe behaviors and practices in inpatient maternity units. Several synergistic features were identified including a commitment to safety culture; technical competence; teamwork, cooperation, and positive working relationships.
Sinnott C, Georgiadis A, Park J, et al. Ann Fam Med. 2020;18:159-168.
This review synthesized research exploring how operational failures (e.g., distractions, situational constraints) in primary care affect the work of primary care physicians. The literature suggests that operational failures are common, and the gap between what physicians perceive that they should be doing and what they were doing (“work-as-imagined” vs, “work-as-done”) is largely attributed to operational failures over which the primary care physicians had limited control. The authors suggest that future research focus on which operational failures have the highest impact in primary care settings in order to prioritize areas for targeted improvement.
Martin GP, Chew S, Dixon-Woods M. Health (London). 2021;25:757-774.
After findings of gross negligence, the National Health Service (NHS) introduced ‘Freedom to Speak Up Guardians’ to lead safety culture change with the ultimate goal that speaking up about safety issues becomes the norm. The authors used semi-structured interviews with 51 individuals (e.g., Guardians, clinicians, policymakers/regulators, etc.) to describe the rollout of the Guardians. These interviews revealed that the role of the Guardians is rich in potential but that the initial narrow role of addressing only quality and safety concerns was not consistent with the myriad of complex issues brought to them and may indicate the need to expand the role definition.
Dixon-Woods M, Campbell A, Martin G, et al. Acad Med. 2019;94:579-585.
Disruptive and unprofessional behaviors are known threats to safety culture and contribute to burnout among health professionals. In response to an episode of serious misconduct by a clinician, an academic hospital implemented a structured effort to address disruptive behavior by developing mechanisms for frontline staff to voice their concerns. This article reports on the development and implementation of the effort, which focused on addressing longstanding aspects of institutional culture that were perceived as tolerating—and providing tacit endorsement of—prominent leaders who engaged in disruptive behavior.
Maternal harm is a sentinel event that has garnered increased attention in both policy and clinical environments. This qualitative study combined direct observation and interviews to understand the characteristics that enabled a high-performing maternity ward to achieve their excellent safety outcomes. Investigators identified a set of specific, evidence-based safety practices including standardization, monitoring, and emphasis on technical skill. They also identified a strong and consistent safety culture and noted that structural conditions, such as staffing levels and the physical environment, supported safe outcomes. The authors conclude that all of these factors influence each other and jointly produce safety. A recent Annual Perspective summarized national initiatives to improve safety in maternity care.
The United Kingdom National Health Service (NHS) is known for both patient safety achievements and failures. This commentary discusses the unique opportunity the NHS embodies to improve practice. Highlighting system-level challenges due to lack of resources and funding, the author describes the role of health care professions in fostering continued achievements through the application of improvement science.
Lamé G, Dixon-Woods M. BMJ Simul Technol Enhanc Learn. 2018;6:87-94.
Simulation training is widely used to teach clinical skills to improve patient care and safety. This narrative review and commentary goes beyond simulation for education to describe how simulation can be used in healthcare improvement research. Examples include evaluating how an intervention is received by participants or assessing feasibility and effectiveness.
Armstrong N, Brewster L, Tarrant C, et al. Soc Sci Med. 2018;198:157-164.
Measuring patient safety is critical to improvement. This ethnographic study examined the implementation of a patient safety measurement program in the United Kingdom, the NHS Safety Thermometer, which measured incidence of pressure ulcers, harm from falls, catheter-associated urinary tract infection, and venous thromboembolism, with the goal of informing local improvement efforts. Investigators sought to examine how the measurement program was perceived by frontline staff. Despite the explicit emphasis on using the data for improvement, it was viewed as an external reporting requirement. The program was also viewed as a basis to compare organizations, especially because it included pay-for-performance incentives. The authors suggest that the intention of the program did not match the real-world considerations of participating health care systems and had the unintended consequence of creating potential for blame.
… … Commentary by Mohammad Farhad Peerally, MBChB, MRCP, and MaryDixon-Woods, DPhil … Root cause analysis (RCA) is a widely … [go to PubMed] 21. Dixon-Woods M, Bosk CL, Aveling EL, Goeschel CA, Pronovost PJ. Explaining Michigan: …
Martin G, Aveling E-L, Campbell A, et al. BMJ Qual Saf. 2018;27:710-717.
A work environment in which all team members feel comfortable speaking up about safety concerns is a key aspect of positive safety culture. Although formal mechanisms exist within health care institutions for raising safety issues, little is known about how such channels promote or discourage employees from speaking up. Researchers conducted interviews with 165 frontline staff and senior leaders working at three academic hospitals in two countries. They found that leaders viewed formal systems for raising concerns favorably, but other respondents felt uneasy reporting concerns through these channels. Such apprehension occurred especially if the concern was based on a general feeling that something might be wrong rather than hard evidence—what the authors refer to as "soft" intelligence. A PSNet perspective discussed how to change safety culture.
Tarrant C, Leslie M, Bion J, et al. Soc Sci Med. 2017;193:8-15.
Achieving a positive safety culture requires that all team members feel comfortable voicing safety concerns. Hierarchy and poor communication are well-recognized barriers that prevent team members from speaking up about safety concerns. In this qualitative study across 19 intensive care units, researchers used data from hundreds of hours of ethnographic observation and interviews to understand how team members raised safety concerns and to characterize processes of social control exercised in response to mistakes, perceived safety risks, and deviations from normal practice. The authors argue that a better understanding of social control is necessary to facilitate voicing safety concerns in the clinical setting. A past WebM&M commentary discussed an incident involving a medical student who did not speak up when a urinary catheter was inserted without sterile technique.
Pronovost P, Sutcliffe K, Basu L, et al. Bull World Health Organ. 2017;95:478-480.
Mental models represent established mindsets that can either hinder or enhance safety. This commentary describes mental models about patient safety that may limit progress, such as acceptance of harm as an expected byproduct of medical care. The authors provide suggested changes to these mindsets, including focusing on developing effective patient safety measures and a systems approach to designing and implementing improvement initiatives.