Safety climate refers to shared perceptions of what an organization is like with regard to safety, whereas safety culture refers to employees' fundamental ideology and orientation and explains why safety is pursued in the manner exhibited within a particular organization. Although research has sought to identify opportunities for improving safety outcomes by studying patterns of variation in safety climate, few empirical studies have examined the impact of organizational characteristics such as culture on hospital safety climate.
This study explored how aspects of general organizational culture relate to hospital patient safety climate.
In a stratified sample of 92 U.S. hospitals, we sampled 100% of senior managers and physicians and 10% of other hospital workers. The Patient Safety Climate in Healthcare Organizations and the Zammuto and Krakower organizational culture surveys measured safety climate and group, entrepreneurial, hierarchical, and production orientation of hospitals' culture, respectively. We administered safety climate surveys to 18,361 personnel and organizational culture surveys to a 5,894 random subsample between March 2004 and May 2005. Secondary data came from the 2004 American Hospital Association Annual Hospital Survey and Dun & Bradstreet. Hierarchical linear regressions assessed relationships between organizational culture and safety climate measures.
Aspects of general organizational culture were strongly related to safety climate. A higher level of group culture correlated with a higher level of safety climate, but more hierarchical culture was associated with lower safety climate. Aspects of organizational culture accounted for more than threefold improvement in measures of model fit compared with models with controls alone. A mix of culture types, emphasizing group culture, seemed optimal for safety climate.
Safety climate and organizational culture are positively related. Results support strategies that promote group orientation and reduced hierarchy, including use of multidisciplinary team training, continuous quality improvement tools, and human resource practices and policies.
Sara J. Singer, MBA, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Health Care Management and Policy, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA. E-mail: email@example.com.
Alyson Falwell, MPH, is Director of Operations, The Altos Group, Oakland, CA.
David M. Gaba, MD, is Director, Patient Safety Culture Institute, VA Palo Alto Health Care System, CA.
Mark Meterko, PhD, is Investigator, Center for Organization, Leadership, and Management Research, VA Boston Healthcare System, MA.
Amy Rosen, PhD, is VA Research Career Scientist, Center for Health Quality, Outcomes and Economic Research, Bedford VAMC, MA.
Christine W. Hartmann, PhD, is Research Scientist, Center for Health Quality, Outcomes, and Economic Research, Bedford VAMC, MA.
Laurence Baker, PhD, is Professor, Department of Health Research and Policy, Stanford University, CA.