Trainees' perceptions of patient safety practices: Recounting failures of supervision

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety








Background: Ensuring that trainees receive appropriate clinical supervision is one proven method for improving patient safety outcomes. Yet, supervision is difficult to monitor, even more so during advanced levels of training. The manner in which trainees' perceived failures of supervision influenced patient safety practices across disciplines and various levels of training was investigated. Methods: A brief, open-ended questionnaire, administered to 334 newly hired interns, residents, and fellows, asked for descriptions of situations in which they witnessed a failure of supervision and their corresponding response. Results: Of the 265 trainees completing the survey, 73 (27.5%) indicated having witnessed a failure of supervision. The analysis of these responses revealed three types of supervision failures-monitoring, guidance, and feedback. The necessity of adequate supervision and its accompanying consequences were also highlighted in the participants' responses. Conclusions: The findings of this study identify two primary sources of failures of supervision: supervisors' failure to respond to trainees' seeking of guidance or clinical support and trainees' failure to seek such support. The findings suggest that the learning environment's influence was sufficient to cause trainees to value their appearance to superiors more than safe patient care, suggesting that trainees' feelings may supersede patients' needs and jeopardize optimal treatment. The literature on the impact of disruptive be havior on patient care may also improve understanding of how intimidating and abusive behavior stifles effective com - munication and trainees' ability to provide optimal patient care. Improved supervision and communication within the medical hierarchy should not only create more productive learning environments but also improve patient safety. Copyright 2011 © The Joint Commission.