Teamwork and safety

A national survey of teamwork and safety attitudes in critical care units in the UK

Status: Published 

What was this study about?

Critical care units are high-risk environments. Addressing human factors has been identified as a significant aspect of risk management. To date, however, there are relatively few data concerning human factors in critical care. 

Since 1978, the Human Factors Research Project (HFRP) group at the University of Texas (Austin) has researched human factors in aviation and has more recently widened its scope to include medicine. 

An important aspect of this research has been the use of a validated survey of attitudes and beliefs towards teamwork and safety (the Safety Attitudes Questionnaire). This allows patterns to be identified and comparisons to be made both between and within organisations. Survey results are used in guiding and monitoring interventions in training, education and management. 

HFRP and ICNARC joined forces to conduct the first large-scale survey of attitudes towards teamwork and safety amongst staff working in critical care units in the UK. 

The survey was administered in March 2001. 106 UK critical care units participated and 4,856 staff members returned a completed questionnaire.

What did the study find?

The Safety Attitudes Questionnaire was shown to be a valid and reliable tool. 

Healthcare organisations can use the questionnaire to measure caregiver attitudes about six patient safety-related domains, to:

  • compare themselves with other organisations;
  • prompt interventions to improve safety attitudes; and
  • measure the effectiveness of these interventions.

Who led the study? 

Dr J Bryan Sexton, HFRP, University of Texas 

Professor Robert Helmreich, HFRP, University of Texas 

Professor Kathy Rowan, ICNARC 

The study was funded by the HFRP and ICNARC (self-funded)