Assessing the Culture
To establish a culture of safety, an organization must change from one of blame for errors to one where errors are seen as opportunities to learn and improve. A culture of safety recognizes that errors exist and are a part of the healthcare business, and deals with them in a non-punitive manner (unless behavior is truly egregious).
One of the basic principles of quality improvement is that in order to improve, you have to be able to measure where you are (see module, Quality Improvement). Assessment of the safety culture in an organization is a key step in improving it.
A number of instruments are available to help organizations measure their own culture. One of the most accepted is the AHRQ Hospital Survey on Patient Safety Culture (www.ahrq.gov/qual/hospculture/hospform.pdf ). While this is specifically designed for hospital use, many of the questions are applicable to any healthcare setting.
Often we think of a cultural assessment as a one time occurrence. What other ways can a cultural assessment be used in maintaining the culture of safety in an organization?
Take the AHRQ patient safety culture for your own setting. Do you feel you have a culture of safety in your organization? What changes would help to improve it?