Information for Patients and Families

Why a just culture is important for patients and families

A just culture helps make care safer for patients. It is part of a safety culture – an approach to delivering healthcare that continually strives to make care as safe as possible.

A just culture is also part of a healthcare quality culture where there is a commitment and ongoing effort to create a positive care experience for patients and better outcomes of care. 

In a just culture there is a feeling of trust that everyone involved will be treated fairly when care does not go as well as expected for a patient. Trust is important for both healthcare workers and patients.

Healthcare workers and patients are an important source of information about weaknesses in the care delivery system.

  • Healthcare workers will be more likely to report errors and other concerns about the care delivery system when they trust that those involved will be supported and treated fairly.
  • Patients will be more likely to report errors and safety concerns (an ‘accident waiting to happen’) because they know they and their healthcare providers will be treated fairly.

Top 4 things patients and family members can do to foster a just culture:

  1. Speak up about your patient safety concerns. This can help make care safer for other patients. Promote the idea of a safety culture in which healthcare workers welcome information that helps identify where improvements are needed.
  2. Avoid looking for someone to blame if something goes wrong with the care you or a family member receives. Instead, ask for the facts about what happened to help you better understand why people took the actions they did. 
  3. Ask about how the actions of people involved when something goes wrong will be assessed. Advocate for a fair assessment process that is guided by just culture principles.
  4. Be vocal about the need to uphold the principles of a just culture. This will allow healthcare workers and patients to talk openly about their concerns together in order to improve the system for others.