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Dimensions of safety culture: a systematic review of quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods for assessing safety culture in hospitals

Churruca, K, Ellis, LA, Pomare, C, Hogden, AV ORCID: 0000-0002-4317-7960, Bierbaum, M, Long, JC, Olekalns, A and Braithwaite, J 2021 , 'Dimensions of safety culture: a systematic review of quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods for assessing safety culture in hospitals' , BMJ Open, vol. 11, no. 7 , pp. 1-13 , doi:

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Background The study of safety culture and its relationship to patient care have been challenged by variation in definition, dimensionality and methods of assessment. This systematic review aimed to map methods to assess safety culture in hospitals, analyse the prevalence of these methods in the published research literature and examine the dimensions of safety culture captured through these processes. Methods We included studies reporting on quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods to assess safety culture in hospitals. The review was conducted using four academic databases (PubMed, CINAHL, Scopus and Web of Science) with studies from January 2008 to May 2020. A formal quality appraisal was not conducted. Study purpose, type of method and safety culture dimensions were extracted from all studies, coded thematically, and summarised narratively and using descriptive statistics where appropriate. Results A total of 694 studies were included. A third (n=244, 35.2%) had a descriptive or exploratory purpose, 225 (32.4%) tested relationships among variables, 129 (18.6%) evaluated an intervention, while 13.8% (n=96) had a methodological focus. Most studies exclusively used surveys (n=663; 95.5%), with 88 different surveys identified. Only 31 studies (4.5%) used qualitative or mixed methods. Thematic analysis identified 11 themes related to safety culture dimensions across the methods, with 'Leadership' being the most common. Qualitative and mixed methods approaches were more likely to identify additional dimensions of safety culture not covered by the 11 themes, including improvisation and contextual pressures. Discussion We assessed the extent to which safety culture dimensions mapped to specific quantitative and qualitative tools and methods of assessing safety culture. No single method or tool appeared to measure all 11 themes of safety culture. Risk of publication bias was high in this review. Future attempts to assess safety culture in hospitals should consider incorporating qualitative methods into survey studies to evaluate this multi-faceted construct.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Churruca, K and Ellis, LA and Pomare, C and Hogden, AV and Bierbaum, M and Long, JC and Olekalns, A and Braithwaite, J
Keywords: health & safety, health services administration & management, organisation of health services
Journal or Publication Title: BMJ Open
Publisher: B M J Group
ISSN: 2044-6055
DOI / ID Number:
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2021 Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2021. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.

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