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The blame culture in nursing: how to make a change in your workplace

A punitive response to errors affects patient safety and staff morale. There is another way
Illustration of nurses pointing the finger of blame at a colleague

A punitive response to errors is bad for patient safety and staff morale. There is another way

  • Evidence from other industries shows using phrases such as ‘what’s happened?’ rather than ‘who’s to blame?’ is more productive
  • New guidance from NHS Resolution explains practical steps staff and organisations can take to embed a ‘just and learning culture’
  • Taking a learning approach when staff make mistakes is better for patients too, as care ultimately improves

When something goes wrong, a simple shift in language can make all the difference.

Instead of asking ‘who’s to blame?’ or ‘what did you do?’, try asking ‘what happened?’ and ‘what were the circumstances?’. This can be the key to improving patient care as well as the lives of healthcare staff.

That’s the message in new guidance from NHS Resolution, the body

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