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J Am Coll Surg. 2007 Dec;205(6):778-84. Epub 2007 Oct 18.

Risk-adjusted morbidity in teaching hospitals correlates with reported levels of communication and collaboration on surgical teams but not with scale measures of teamwork climate, safety climate, or working conditions.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40536-0298, USA.



Since the Institute of Medicine patient safety reports, a number of survey-based measures of organizational climate safety factors (OCSFs) have been developed. The goal of this study was to measure the impact of OCSFs on risk-adjusted surgical morbidity and mortality.


Surveys were administered to staff on general/vascular surgery services during a year. Surveys included multiitem scales measuring OCSFs. Additionally, perceived levels of communication and collaboration with coworkers were assessed. The National Surgical Quality Improvement Program was used to assess risk-adjusted morbidity and mortality. Correlations between outcomes and OCSFs were calculated and between outcomes and communication/collaboration with attending and resident doctors, nurses, and other providers.


Fifty-two sites participated in the survey: 44 Veterans Affairs and 8 academic medical centers. A total of 6,083 surveys were returned, for a response rate of 52%. The OCSF measures of teamwork climate, safety climate, working conditions, recognition of stress effects, job satisfaction, and burnout demonstrated internal validity but did not correlate with risk-adjusted outcomes. Reported levels of communication/collaboration with attending and resident doctors correlated with risk-adjusted morbidity.


Survey-based teamwork, safety climate, and working conditions scales are not confirmed to measure organizational factors that influence risk-adjusted surgical outcomes. Reported communication/collaboration with attending and resident doctors on surgical services influenced patient morbidity. This suggests the importance of doctors' coordination and decision-making roles on surgical teams in providing high-quality and safe care. We propose risk-adjusted morbidity as an effective measure of surgical patient safety.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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