Aims. To determine individual and work environment characteristics associated with the occurrence of errors in Korean public hospitals.
Background. Medical errors are affected by individual and work environment characteristics. Few studies have examined the factors influencing medical errors, including perceptions of safety climate and individual and organisational characteristics.
Design. A survey.
Methods. A questionnaire was distributed to 2358 nurses in 33 public hospitals to collect information on the frequency of errors, perceptions of safety climate and general characteristics of the participants. Data on hospital characteristics were obtained from the Regional Public Hospital Profile. The response rate was 89·7%. Multiple logistic regression analysis was performed to determine the factors influencing the occurrence of errors.
Results. Of the participants, 19% reported having made at least one error in the previous year. Nurses with better perceptions of workgroup- (OR = 0·73) and organisation- (OR = 0·69) level safety climate were less likely to make errors. Nurses with less than 3 years of nursing experience (OR = 2·05) were more likely to make errors than those with ten years or more. Nurses working at Red Cross hospitals (OR = 1·63) and in rural areas (OR = 2·04) were more likely to make errors than those at Regional Medical Centres and in urban areas, respectively.
Conclusion. The factors associated with the occurrence of errors were perceived safety climate, years of nursing experience and hospitals’ ownership and location.
Relevance to clinical practice. Public hospital executives and nurse managers should be actively involved in creating a strong safety climate. Furthermore, training programmes and managerial support focussed on improving patient safety and directed at less experienced nurses, especially those working at Red Cross hospitals in rural areas, need to be emphasised to prevent errors.