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Challenges to Getting It Right

Duthie, Elizabeth Ann RN, PhD

doi: 10.1097/PTS.0000000000000161
Review Article

Patient safety experts debated accountability in health care at the 2014 annual National Patient Safety Foundation Congress. The debate reflected the struggles organizations are facing with ensuring a responsible workforce committed to patient safety versus the need to redesign flawed systems that are error prone. The question, “is it the systems or the individual?” was at issue. This article proposes that it is the wrong question, and the failure to apply patient safety science in clinical practice is contributing to the ambiguity fueling the debate. To transform accountability from a source of confusion to a powerful tool for fulfilling health care's fiduciary responsibility to protect patients from harm, we need to reframe our approach. This article presents the science and strategies to create clarity that will redirect the dialogue from a debate in which accountability resides to one about learning for improvement when adverse events occur.

From the College of Nursing, New York University; and MCIC Vermont, LLC, New York, New York.

Correspondence: Elizabeth Ann Duthie, RN, PhD, 9801 Shore Rd, Apt 5-O, Brooklyn, NY, 11209-7566 (e-mail:

The author discloses no conflict of interest.

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