An organization’s ability to promote professional behavior is directly dependent on the culture of the organization. Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) has been dedicated to creating a culture where professionalism can thrive. Our May Safety Salute is to Dr. Hickson and VUMC for the strides made towards creating a culture of reliability and professional accountability.

Jerry Hickson, MD, Chief Quality, Patient Safety and Risk Prevention Officer at VUMC told us:

Professionalism policies will not work if behaviors that undermine a culture of safety go on unobserved, unreported, and unaddressed. If appropriately supported by leadership, peers will deliver respectful, non-judgmental feedback to their colleagues, a critical underpinning in pursuite of a culture of safety.

In his presentation at the CRICO 2014 patient safety symposium, Walk This Way, Dr. Hickson shared the infrastructure that VUMC has implemented to promote reliability and professional accountability*:

  1. Leadership commitment (will not blink)
  2. Goals, a credo, and supportive policies
  3. Surveillance tools to capture observations/data
  4. Processes for reviewing observations/data
  5. Model to guide graduated interventions
  6. Multi-level professional/leader training
  7. Resources to address unnecessary variation
  8. Resources to help affected staff and patients

Dr. Hickson’s full presentation from Walk This Way is available here.


      *Hickson GB, Pichert JW, Webb LE, Gabbe SG. A complementary approach to promoting professionalism: Identifying, measuring and addressing unprofessional behaviors. Acad Med. 2007 Nov;82(11):1040-1048.
      Hickson GB, Moore IN, Pichert JW, Benegas Jr M. Chapter 1: Balancing systems and individual accountability in a safety culture. In: Berman S, ed. From Front Office to Front Line. 2nd ed. Oakbrook Terrace, IL: Joint Commission Resources;2012:1-36.

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