Errors and the Burden of Errors: Attitudes, Perceptions, and the Culture of Safety in Pediatric Cardiac Surgical Teams

Agnes Bognár, Paul Barach, Julie K. Johnson, Robert C. Duncan, David Birnbach, Donna Woods, Jane L. Holl, Emile A. Bacha*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Scopus citations


Background: The fear of committing clinical errors in perioperative care has a negative impact on the psychological well-being of surgical team members and ultimately on patient care. We assessed the perceptions and attitudes of surgical teams relative to committing errors, the impact of errors, and the culture of safety. Methods: Pediatric cardiac surgery team members at three academic hospitals were surveyed. The survey included scaled, open-ended questions and a clinical vignette. Respondents were asked about the safety climate, team climate, stress recognition, and the impact of error as they relate to making and the anticipation of making clinical errors. Results: The response rate was 69%. Safety attitudes were influenced by the work environment climate. Many respondents felt unable to express disagreement and had difficulty raising safety concerns. Staffing levels, equipment availability, production pressures, and hectic schedules were concerns. Respondents admitted that errors occurred repeatedly, and that guidelines and policies were often disregarded. Conclusions: A psychometrically sound teamwork culture tool was used and demonstrated that surgical teams are influenced by the recognition of medical errors and that these errors carry significant personal burden. The findings suggest that the safety attitudes among team members may impact their performance and need to be carefully taken into consideration. Providers' reluctance to share safety events with others, as well as the perceived powerlessness to prevent events, must be addressed as part of an overall strategy to improve patient care outcomes. The study points to the need to address teamwork culture in efforts to improve patient care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1374-1381
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of Thoracic Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Surgery


Dive into the research topics of 'Errors and the Burden of Errors: Attitudes, Perceptions, and the Culture of Safety in Pediatric Cardiac Surgical Teams'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this