Tolerance of uncertainty may influence how physicians and other providers practice and make clinical decisions. We hypothesized that increased tolerance of uncertainty would be associated with an increased uptake of a quality improvement (QI) intervention.


We examined tolerance of uncertainty using the Physicians’ Reactions to Uncertainty Scale in the context of a national QI project in the Value in Inpatient Pediatrics network. The QI project aimed to increase exclusive isotonic fluid use and decrease laboratory draws. Exposure to the intervention was measured by using the stepped wedge design with sequential implementation across a diverse group of US hospitals. Multivariable analysis was conducted by using exposure to the intervention and tolerance of uncertainty as independent variables and exclusive isotonic fluid use or laboratory testing as the dependent variable.


Of 106 participating hospitals, 97 contributed valid responses, with an overall mean reported tolerance of uncertainty of 3.39 (95% confidence interval: 3.27–3.50), with lower numbers on the 6-point scale indicating greater tolerance of uncertainty. Exposure to the QI intervention was significantly associated with exclusive isotonic fluid use (P <.001). Lower tolerance of uncertainty at baseline was associated with lower baseline isotonic fluid use and greater uptake of the use of isotonic fluids but not reduction in laboratory testing.


Contrary to our hypothesis, lower tolerance of uncertainty was associated with greater uptake of the QI intervention for the outcome of isotonic fluids. This initial association warrants further study to evaluate how tolerance of uncertainty plays a role in quality improvement science.

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