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Medical Trainees' Formal and Informal Incident Reporting Across a Five-Hospital Academic Medical Center

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Background: Despite the importance of incident reporting for promoting patient safety, the extent to which residents and fellows (trainees) in graduate medical education (GME) programs report incidents is not well understood. A study was conducted to determine the prevalence of and variations in incident reporting across hospitals in an academic medical center.

Methods: Trainees enrolled in GME programs sponsored by the Indiana University School of Medicine (IUSM) completed (1) the Behavior Index Survey (BIS), which asked respondents if they knew how to locate incident forms and if they ever submitted an incident form, and (2) the Safety Culture Survey (SCS), which asked about the frequencies of their formal and informal incident reporting behaviors.

Results: Some 443 of 992 invited trainees (45% response rate) participated in the study. Of the 305 BIS respondents who rotated through all five hospitals, varying proportions knew how to locate an incident form (22.3%–31.5%) and had completed an incident form (6.2%–20%) in each hospital. Incident report completion rates were higher (20.1%–81.3%) among trainees who knew how to locate an incident form. Higher proportions of the 443 SCS respondents had informally discussed an incident with other trainees (90%), faculty physicians (70%), and at resident meetings and conferences (73%).

Discussion: The study confirms that GME trainees formally report incidents rarely. The flow of communication to and from trainees about patient safety and incidents is low, despite an organizational focus on safety and quality. Discussion of safety issues among trainees occurs more informally among colleagues and peers than with faculty or through formal reporting mechanisms. The data suggest a number of strategies to increase the culture of safety among GME trainees.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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  • Published monthly, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety is a peer-reviewed publication dedicated to providing health professionals with the information they need to promote the quality and safety of health care. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety invites original manuscripts on the development, adaptation, and/or implementation of innovative thinking, strategies, and practices in improving quality and safety in health care. Case studies, program or project reports, reports of new methodologies or new applications of methodologies, research studies on the effectiveness of improvement interventions, and commentaries on issues and practices are all considered.

    David W. Baker, MD, MPH, FACP, executive vice president for the Division of Healthcare Quality Evaluation at The Joint Commission, is the inaugural editor-in-chief of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety.

    Also known as Joint Commission Journal on Quality Improvement and Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Safety
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