The survey also found the nurses said poor communication, ineffective programs and punitive environments hampered patient safety efforts, HealthLeaders Media reported.
Ninety-four percent of the nurses surveyed said their hospitals have programs in place to promote patient safety, but only 57 percent said they believe the patient safety programs in their hospital were effective.
However, the patient safely programs didn't seem to affect nurses' perceptions of patient safety as much as how the programs were designed.
Patient safety programs -- based on airline and air force safety systems -- rely on reporting errors and discussing the errors as a team to fix the problem so it doesn't happen again.
In practice, error reporting often doesn't occur because nurses said they were afraid they would be penalized for making mistakes.
The survey found although 90 percent of nurses said it was important to have a hospital culture where nurses were not penalized for reporting errors or near misses.
Fifty-nine percent said nurses often held back reporting patient errors for fear of punishment, while 62 percent said the same about reporting near-misses, the survey said.
No survey details were provided.