What is patient safety culture? A review of the literature

Christine E. Sammer, Kristine Lykens, Karan P. Singh, Douglas A. Mains, Nuha A. Lackan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

297 Scopus citations


Purpose: To organize the properties of safety culture addressed by many studies and to develop a conceptual culture of safety model.Design and Methods: A comprehensive review of the culture of safety literature within the U.S. hospital setting. The review was a qualitative meta-analysis from which we generated a conceptual culture of safety framework and developed a typology of the safety culture literature.Findings: Seven subcultures of patient safety culture were identified: (a) leadership, (b) teamwork, (c) evidence-based, (d) communication, (e) learning, (f) just, and (g) patient-centered.Conclusions: Safety culture is a complex phenomenon that is not clearly understood by hospital leaders, thus making it difficult to operationalize. We found senior leadership accountability key to an organization-wide culture of safety.Clinical Relevance: Hospital leaders are increasingly pressured by federal, state, regulatory, and consumer groups to demonstrate an organizational safety culture that assures patients are safe from medical error. This article defines a safety culture framework that may support hospital leadership answer the question " what is a patient safety culture?"

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)156-165
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Nursing Scholarship
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2010


  • Hospital safety culture framework
  • Patient safety


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