Why Is Patient Safety a Challenge? Insights From the Professionalism Opinions of Medical Students' Research

Paul M. McGurgan, Katrina L. Calvert, Elizabeth A. Nathan, Kiran Narula, Antonio Celenza, Christine Jorm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives Despite increased emphasis on education and training for patient safety in medical schools, there is little known about factors influencing decision making regarding patient safety behaviors. This study examined the nature and magnitude of factors that may influence opinions around patient safety-related behaviors as a means of providing insights into how Australian doctors and medical students view these issues relative to members of the public. Methods A national, multicenter, prospective, cross-sectional survey was conducted using responses to hypothetical patient safety scenarios involving the following: fabricating results, personal protective equipment, presenteeism, and reporting concerns. Australian enrolled medical students, medical doctors, and members of the public were surveyed. Participant responses were compared for the different contextual variables within the scenarios and the participants' demographic characteristics. Results In total, 2602 medical student, 809 doctors, and 503 members of the Australian public participated. The 3 demographic groups had significantly differing opinions on many of the patient safety dilemmas. Doctors were more tolerant of medical students not reporting concerning behaviors and attending placements despite recent illness. Medical students' opinions frequently demonstrated a "transition effect," bridging between the doctors and publics' attitudes, consistent with professional identity formation. Conclusions Opinions on the acceptability of medical students' patient safety-related behaviors were influenced by the demographics of the cohort and the contextual complexity of the scenario. Although the survey used hypothetical scenarios, doctors and medical students' opinions seem to be influenced by cognitive dissonances, biases, and heuristics, which may negatively affect patient safety.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E1124-E1134
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Patient Safety
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


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