Background: The literature on chiropractic safety tends to focus on adverse events and little is known about how chiropractors ensure safety and manage risk in the course of their daily practice. The purpose of this study was to investigate how chiropractors manage potentially risky clinical scenarios. We also sought to establish how chiropractors perceive the safety climate in their workplace and thus whether there is an observable culture of safety within the profession.
Methods: An online questionnaire was designed to determine which of nine management options would be chosen by the respondent in response to four defined clinical case scenarios. Safety climate within the respondent’s practice setting was measured by seeking the level of agreement with 23 statements relating to six different safety dimensions. 260 licensed chiropractors in Switzerland and 1258 UK members of The Royal College of Chiropractors were invited to complete the questionnaire. Questionnaire responses were analysed quantitatively in respect of the four clinical scenarios and the nine management options to determine the likelihood of each option being undertaken, with results recorded in terms of % likelihood. Gender differences in response to the management options for each scenario were evaluated using the Mann–Whitney U (MWU) test. Positive agreement with elements comprising each of the six safety dimensions contributed to a composite ‘% positive agreement’ score calculated for each dimension.
Results: Questionnaire responses were received from 76% (200/260) of Swiss participants and 31% (393/1258) of UK members of The Royal College of Chiropractors. There was a general trend for Swiss and UK chiropractors to manage clinical scenarios where treatment appears not to be successful, not indicated, possibly harmful or where a patient is apparently getting worse, by re-evaluating their care. Stopping treatment and/or incident reporting to a safety incident reporting and learning system were generally found to be unlikely courses of action. Gender differences were observed with female chiropractors appearing to be more risk averse.
Conclusions: Swiss and UK chiropractors tend to manage potentially risky clinical scenarios by reevaluating the case. The unlikeliness of safety incident reporting is probably due to a range of recognised barriers, although Swiss and UK chiropractors are positive about local communication and openness which are important tenets for safety incident reporting. The observed positivity towards key aspects of clinic safety indicates a developing safety culture within the Swiss and UK chiropractic professions.
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