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Studies in human medicine indicate that between 22,000 and 400,000 people die every year as a direct result of medical errors. In veterinary medicine, 42% of human-caused incidents caused harm to the patient, including 5% resulting in death. In a university veterinary teaching hospital, there were 5.3 errors/1,000 patient visits, and 4 of these resulted in death. Veterinary medicine falls far behind other safety-critical industries in adopting a culture of patient safety. Organizations should respond in a just and effective way when errors occur. Psychological safety for team members to identify and speak up about areas of concern must be created and the results of improvements made based on these concerns shared within the professional group. If veterinary medicine is going to embrace patient safety culture, it needs to be included in the curriculum. Accrediting and licensing bodies need to require the teaching and application of principles of patient safety culture. Faculty must be trained to deliver patient safety–oriented care. Experts in human systems engineering should be brought in to educate veterinarians on how the systems we work in impact patient outcomes. If we are going to fulfill the promise of the Veterinarian’s Oath, we must embrace patient safety culture and all the difficult changes it requires of our professional culture.

Open access
in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association