Doctors have been urged to think carefully about the shortcuts they take routinely to help them cope with their growing workload.
The call was made by a visiting American researcher at the senior doctors' conference in Wellington in Friday.
Doctor Nancy Berlinger of the Hastings Bioethics Center in New York told the doctors that shortcuts, breaking rules and other fixes are common, as people everywhere seek to do more with less.
Examples given by Dr Berlinger and others included nurses giving drugs based on verbal rather than written instructions and anaesthetists working with fewer technicians than they should.
Dr Berlinger said such shortcuts are normal practice but rules are supposed to help keep patients safe.
She urged doctors not to blame people over shortcuts but to acknowledge they occur and to look for solutions.