Safety cultures in EMS agencies vary widely, study finds

September 2, 2010

A survey of emergency medical services (EMS) agencies from across the country found wide variation in perceptions of workplace safety culture—providing a tool that might point to potential patient safety threats, according to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

The study, to be published in the October/December issue of Prehospital Emergency Care and now available online, analyzed survey results from 61 EMS agencies in the U.S. and Canada. Researchers adapted a survey used in other health care settings to measure paramedic and emergency medical technician (EMT) perceptions of safety climate, teamwork, stress recognition and other components of workplace safety culture.

"While others have characterized safety culture in ambulatory care, the and other in-hospital settings, this is one of the first studies of its kind in the high-risk EMS environment. This study helps us begin to know how safe EMS care is—and how widely safety cultures vary from agency to agency," said P. Daniel Patterson, Ph.D., EMT-B, assistant professor of at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and lead author of the study. His comments come on the heels of another fatal helicopter ambulance crash in Arkansas, where three crew members, including EMS personnel, were killed.

Notably, the researchers found that air-medical EMS agencies tended to score higher across all six domains of safety culture than did ground-based agencies. Most of the EMS agencies participating in the study were private, rural, ground units employing fewer than 50 people. Most respondents were men who were full-time career employees of the agencies. The mean score on safety climate, one of the domains studied, was highest in agencies with fewer employees, lower annual patient contacts and higher proportions of acute patients.

Dr. Patterson emphasized that there is no common mechanism for classifying and reporting errors and adverse events in EMS. "The study provides benchmarking data for EMS agencies and a reliable and valid tool that EMS officials can use to evaluate safety within their agencies. We continue to collect data and report on variations through our network of EMS agencies affiliated with the EMS Agency Research Network," said Dr. Patterson.

Explore further: Viracept caution issued by Pfizer

Related Stories

Viracept caution issued by Pfizer

September 10, 2007

Pfizer Inc. issued a "Dear Healhcare Professional" letter Monday warning of the presence of an impurity in its Viracept medication.

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.