Nurses' Patient Safety Competencies in Korea

Saturday, 26 July 2014: 7:40 AM

Haena Jang, MSN, RN
Nam-Ju Lee, DNSc, RN
College of Nursing, Seoul National University, Seoul, South Korea


The wave of patient safety emerged in the early 2000s with IOM’s report ‘To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System’ in the form of a sustained renovation of healthcare field (Kohn & Corrigan, 2000). Accordingly, intense criticism of the lack of healthcare profession’s competency to assure patient safety has surfaced (Greiner & Knebel, 2003) and great attention has been shown to the question of how nurses prepare for patient safety in terms of attitude, skill, and knowledge. Yet so far, no definitive answer has been given to this question in Korea.

The purpose of this study is to investigate nurses’ patient safety competencies (PSC) in Korea.


Data were collected from 346 nurses working in the three high-level general hospitals in the Metropolitan area, South Korea. This study used Patient Safety Competency (PSC) measurement tool for nursing students developed by Lee (2012) to assess nurses’ competencies of patient safety. The PSC is a self-report questionnaires using Likert scale and includes attitude (18 items), skill (21 items), and knowledge dimension (6 items). Its internal reliability (Cronbach’s alpha) in the original study was .90 (Lee, 2013) and it was .95 in the current study.  

The PSC’s validity was verified using content validity with four experts (three team leaders in quality improvement departments in high-level hospitals, one professor in college of nursing) in this study. The construct validity of PSC measurement tool was confirmed through experimental factor analysis (EFA) in this study. After the pilot survey with 11 nurses, main survey was conducted from January and February 2012.

The present paper was designed to test the hypothesis that nurses’ patient safety competencies would differ by their length of clinical career and working units on the base of Benner’s model of skill acquisition (Benner & Tanner, 1987).

The general characteristics were analyzed using descriptive statistics. The PSCs of participants were analyzed with t-test, one way ANOVA, and Chi-squared test.


There were significant differences in the total scores of PSC according to the previous experience of patient safety education and role, the length of clinical career, and current working units and hospitals. The longer clinical experience nurses had, the higher PSC scores reported. The nurses working in emergency rooms reported significantly higher scores in the total of PSCs than those who in the other working units (ward, operating room, intensive care unit). The mean of the total PSC scores for all participants was 3.93(±0.41); attitude, skill, and knowledge had mean values of 4.36(±0.37), 3.82(±0.52), and 3.30(±0.67), respectively.


The results of this study show that the length of clinical career and working units should be considered in applying interventions to enhance nurses’ patient safety competencies. There was a gap among working units in the levels of nurses’ PSCs, therefore, subsequent studies should investigate the relevant influence factors of this gap and make up the specific strategies to narrow this space.

We need to endeavor to continuously assess nurses’ patient safety competencies in accordance with clinical career progress. Also, we should try to fill out the lack of competency through developing of systematic patient safety curriculum considering nurses’ clinical career and working units to enhance nurses’ integrated patient safety competencies.

This study was supported by National Research Foundation of Korea (810-20120011)