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BACKGROUND: The use of peripheral vascular catheters (PVCs) is an extremely common and necessary clinical intervention, but inappropriate PVC care poses a major patient safety risk in terms of infection. Quality improvement initiatives have been proposed to reduce the likelihood of adverse events, but a lack of understanding about factors that influence behaviours of healthcare professionals limits the efficacy of such interventions. We undertook qualitative interviews with clinical staff from a large group of hospitals in order to understand influences on PVC care behaviors and subsequent patient safety. METHODS: Ten doctors, ten clinical pharmacists, 18 nurses and one midwife at a National Health Service hospital group in London (United Kingdom) were interviewed between December 2010 and July 2011 using qualitative methods. Responses were analysed using a thematic framework. RESULTS: FOUR KEY THEMES EMERGED: 1) Fragmentation of management and care, demonstrated with a lack of general overview and insufficient knowledge about expected standards of care or responsibility of different professionals; 2) feelings of resentment and frustration as a result of tensions in the workplace, due to the ambiguity about professional responsibilities; 3) disregard for existing hospital policy due to perceptions of flaws in the evidence used to support it; and 4) low-risk perception for the impact of PVC use on patient safety. CONCLUSION: Fragmentation of practice resulted in ill-defined responsibilities and interdisciplinary resentment, which coupled with a generally low perception of risk of catheter use, appeared to result in lack of maintaining policy PVC standards which could reduced patient safety. Resolution of these issues through clearly defining handover practice, teaching interdisciplinary duties and increasing awareness of PVC risks could result in preventing thousands of BSIs and other PVC-related infections annually.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





Attitude of Health Personnel, Critical Care, Frustration, Guideline Adherence, Health Personnel, Hospitals, Humans, Patient Safety, Risk Assessment, Vascular Access Devices