10 topics that will move EMSFORWARD in 2017

The selected topics came from the analysis which showed culture to be either a direct casual factor or contributory factor that led to safety events

EMSFORWARD is an ongoing campaign to improve patient and provider safety in EMS. Patient safety is an area that hasn’t been studied in depth or researched intensively in EMS. Likewise, there are still many educational challenges as well as misconceptions that exist when it comes to patent safety. Some of these include the thought that patient safety is only about the provider not making a mistake; and if one occurs, it was because they were careless. Contrary to that belief, we should start by learning what medical errors are occurring, why they occur and then apply methods to prevent them.

10 patient safety topics

Every day, the men and women in EMS answer the call to help those in their hour of need. These professionals bring compassion, enthusiasm and dependability in very challenging environments. The Center for Patient Safety is honored to be an EMS partner in safety. CPS envisions a health care environment safe for all patients and healthcare providers, in all processes, all the time.

Patient and provider safety should be on the minds of everyone in EMS.
Patient and provider safety should be on the minds of everyone in EMS. (Courtesy photo)

The 10 patient safety topics for EMSFORWARD 2017 were identified by CPS based upon voluntary data submitted to the CPS Patient Safety Organization. Patient safety experts utilized the PSO’s database of actual event information from EMS providers nationwide. The topics selected for 2017 came from the analysis which showed culture to be either a direct casual factor or contributory factor that led to safety events.

Similar to the 2016 release, the 2017 EMSFORWARD campaign is presenting topics that pose risk to patients and providers. The 2017 campaign is looking at topics with an emphasis on patient and provider safety culture.

Model to understand patient and provider safety culture

Patient and provider safety should be on the minds of everyone in EMS, but the advancement of EMS safety rests on the shoulders of EMS leadership across the nation. While there are many components to safety, the most basic foundation is reflected in the attitudes and perceptions of those who practice, teach and lead the EMS profession. This foundation supports the framework for patient and provider safety in the EMS profession.

While culture is a complex topic, CPS hopes to establish a basic framework and understanding about patient and provider safety culture. In addition, by using the research and work of James Reason, EMS providers will learn how culture influences and shapes the foundation of an organization [1]. By weaving together a cyclical safety culture and posing a question to the reader around each topic, CPS hopes to drive awareness conversation, and action to improve safety culture. A safety culture has these characteristics:

Shared accountability

A culture based on the open sourced principles and philosophies of just culture.


A cultural climate where trust exists for the sharing of information about mistakes, almost events and unsafe situations.


Using science and other proven methodology as a foundation to understand why mistakes happen.

Continual learning

Process improvements based on the information from reporting and the science of safety.


Proactive steps taken by leaders in a positive manner to implement changes that provides safer care rather than the reliance on reactive methods for organizational change.

The epicenter of the system

The point during the decision or action that rests on the shoulders of individuals, requiring them to be empowered, prepared and motivated to make the right choice.

Take action

Many EMS organizations have taken steps to improve their patient and provider safety culture. This includes leaders who have placed it as a core value then invested the necessary resources to improve the cultural climate for safety. Others have been watching closely, learning where to start, while some are waiting to take those first steps. Regardless, safety culture is a journey and not a race. No matter where you are on the journey, taking the first step is the most important part.

Stay tuned for updates and the answer to each question posed in subsequent EMS1 articles, on the CPS website and the CPS social media channels. In the meantime, take action to improve your safety culture and the system designs or processes in delivering emergency care.

1. Foundations of Safety, James Reason with CPS interpretation shown. 

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