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J Interprof Care. 2012 Mar;26(2):121-6. doi: 10.3109/13561820.2011.642424. Epub 2012 Jan 4.

Catching and correcting near misses: the collective vigilance and individual accountability trade-off.

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St Michael's Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Despite the focus on patient safety and quality health care for the last two decades, there is still limited understanding of how interprofessional interactions at an organizational or work unit level influence how clinicians perceive and respond to safety events and errors. Within the rubric of safety events, there has been a growing interest in near misses as precursors to adverse events in health care. Given the interactive nature of the variety of professionals working together in the delivery of health care, understanding how the different clinicians experience and respond to near misses in practice is important. A constructivist grounded theory approach was employed for this study which included semi-structured interviews with 24 participants in a large teaching hospital in Canada. Findings from this study provide a deeper understanding into how different clinicians experience and respond to near misses in clinical practice. This understanding indicates that collective vigilance can potentially create risk by eroding individual professional accountability through reliance on other team members to catch and correct their errors. Further research is needed to explore in more depth the trade-offs between collective vigilance and individual accountability by relying on others to catch and correct the potentially harmful errors and avert negative outcomes.

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