I get a lot of pushback from my staff when it comes to error reporting. They often say it is a difficult process to complete. How can I encourage my staff to be more involved in error reporting and also make it easier for them?

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One of the most common complaints organizations hear from their staff about the event reporting process is that it is difficult and tedious to complete (e.g., locating the hardcopy report form and taking the time to fill it out).

Organizations need to make incident reporting much more user-friendly, and the reporting process should include clearly understood instructions for how a report is to be completed and what information should be contained in it.

Additionally, although staff members are encouraged to complete the form as soon as possible after the event has occurred, while the memory of all the circumstances surrounding the event is fresh and can be clearly documented, sometimes it is just not possible for them to do so until after the shift is over. Before a formalized reporting process is put into place, it is always a good idea to solicit staff’s input as to what the common barriers are to incident reporting. Leadership should be prepared to address the following:

  • Assuring staff that they will be provided feedback on any actions taken after an event has been reported
  • Assuring staff that incident reporting is not punitive and is only a mechanism by which a deviation from the norm is being communicated to the appropriate individuals
  • Including common taxonomy that clearly defines what should be reported
  • Educating physicians and other healthcare providers regarding the purpose of an incident reporting system so that there is a clear understanding of how reporting events can help improve patient safety at all levels of care
  • Assuring staff that reports can be submitted anonymously if preferred
  • Educating about both actual and potential harm, so that it is understood that evaluation of process is just as important as investigation of an event
  • Educating staff about how reporting and investigating an incident assists risk management with management of the defense strategy of the claim, should a lawsuit be filed
  • Assuring staff of the ease by which as event can be reported, including minimal time required to complete the report—because it is understood that patient care is top priority


(February 2011)