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Organizational and social-psychological conditions in healthcare and their importance for patient and staff safety. A critical incident study among doctors and nurses

Journal article
Authors Mats Eklöf
Marianne Törner
Anders Pousette
Published in Safety Science
Volume 70
Pages 211-221
ISSN 0925-7535
Publication year 2014
Published at Institute of Medicine, School of Public Health and Community Medicine
Department of Psychology
Pages 211-221
Language en
Keywords Patient safety, healthcare worker, stress, demand-resource, critical incident, occupational safety
Subject categories Applied Psychology


Research on patient safety has indicated that focusing on technologies, routines, control systems, and individual caregiver attributes is not sufficient. The aim of this critical-incident interview study was to identify organizational and social-psychological conditions and processes that Swedish physicians and nurses (n = 36) perceived as important for patient and/or staff safety, and participative safety behavior. Injury due to psychological overload was the most salient type of healthcare worker hazard. Patient and healthcare worker safety went hand in hand. Good patient safety was present when caregivers had good access to their psychological and social capacities. These functions were jeopardized by stress. Our results indicated that quantitative overload, excessive cognitive and emotional complexity, lack of social support and good teamwork, organizational instability, and distrust for and frustration with the way healthcare organizations were managed, caused stress related function impairment in staff, which lead to mistakes and near misses. These aspects also in themselves contributed to risks. Good safety was associated with adequate resources and routines, workplace learning, and supportive unit level managers and colleagues. Features of professional cultures related to ethical norms to offer best possible care for the patient, in spite of insufficient resources, contributed to acceptance of working conditions that could lead to stress and overload.

Page Manager: Webmaster|Last update: 9/11/2012

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