Safety Culture Focus Groups

The quantitative data we get from surveys is certainly a helpful starting point for evaluating culture. However, until we understand WHY staff answered the way they did, the quantitative data only tells one part of the story and any sort of institutional response is likely to have mixed uptake or response. The real value in culture data comes from sharing the results with frontline staff and understanding their interpretation of the question and the context in which they answered. This “debriefing” of the data through focus groups is an essential, but often poorly carried out, part of the survey process.

For example, if an item asking about communication among team members is one of the lower-scoring items across an organization, there is a temptation to say “Aha, everyone needs training in how to use SBAR!” However, when we talk to individual units, introducing SBAR might not be at all what they need – perhaps there are issues with nursing staff not being included in rounding or poor availability of Attending Physicians overnight. Maybe some work settings could use SBAR training, but those that have different ‘communication’ issues require understanding and a different intervention.

During my tenure at different consulting firms, I refined the way we thought about how to share data back and how to get the most use out of focus groups – from quick huddles in a PACU bay to formal meetings with interdisciplinary groups of staff and physicians. I have conducted these focus groups with thousands of staff members in hundreds of hospitals – in large academic medical centers, critical access hospitals, outpatient practices, and everything in between.

I can guide you on developing your own internal cadre of staff to lead this process, or I can lead focus groups in person or online, depending on your organization’s needs.