The role of organizational and professional cultures in medication safety A scoping review of the literature

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10 December 2019

Published journal: International Journal for Quality in Health Care

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This scoping review explores what is known about the role of organizational and professional cultures in medication safety. The aim is to increase our understanding of ‘cultures’ within medication safety and provide an evidence base to shape governance arrangements.

Data sources

Databases searched are ASSIA, CINAHL, EMBASE, HMIC, IPA, MEDLINE, PsycINFO and SCOPUS.

Study selection

Inclusion criteria were original research and grey literature articles written in English and reporting the role of culture in medication safety on either organizational or professional levels, with a focus on nursing, medical and pharmacy professions. Articles were excluded if they did not conceptualize what was meant by ‘culture’ or its impact was not discussed.

Data extraction

Data were extracted for the following characteristics: author(s), title, location, methods, medication safety focus, professional group and role of culture in medication safety.

Results of data synthesis

A total of 1272 citations were reviewed, of which, 42 full-text articles were included in the synthesis. Four key themes were identified which influenced medication safety: professional identity, fear of litigation and punishment, hierarchy and pressure to conform to established culture. At times, the term ‘culture’ was used in a non-specific and arbitrary way, for example, as a metaphor for improving medication safety, but with little focus on what this meant in practice.


Organizational and professional cultures influence aspects of medication safety. Understanding the role these cultures play can help shape both local governance arrangements and the development of interventions which take into account the impact of these aspects of culture.


Samantha Machen, Yogini Jani, Simon Turner, Martin Marshall, Naomi J Fulop, The role of organizational and professional cultures in medication safety: a scoping review of the literature, International Journal for Quality in Health Care, Volume 31, Issue 10, December 2019, Pages G146–G157

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