BackgroundNursing interns are an important backup force for nursing professionals, so efforts to strengthen their patient safety (PS) competencies are a major priority. To do so requires assessing the strengths and weaknesses of Chinese nursing students’ PS competence and identifying the influencing factors.MethodsThis was a multi-site, cross-sectional, web-based study that was carried out between September 2018 and January 2019. A national online survey was completed by 732 Chinese undergraduate nursing students. Our primary outcome factor was the Health Professional Education in Patient Safety Survey score. We also collected socio-demographic and clinical practice-related characteristics as independent variables.Multiple stepwise linear regression was performed to identify predictors of PS competence.ResultsChinese undergraduate nursing students were fairly confident in their clinical safety skills but less confident in what they learned about sociocultural or context-dependent aspects of PS and speaking up about PS, including effective communication and understanding human and environmental factors. Less than half of the students felt that they could approach someone engaging in unsafe practice and were reluctant to voice concern about adverse events. We observed significant differences in PS competence between students from different regions, across different PS learning styles (self-study and classroom theoretical study), with different self-assessed PS competence levels, and with experiences of adverse events (p < 0.05). These factors accounted for almost 15% of the total variance in PS competence scores (adjusted R2 = 0.15, p = 0.00).ConclusionsThe results of this study provide a better understanding of PS competence among final-year nursing students in China. Our findings may help nursing educators or healthcare organizations to cultivate and improve PS competence by establishing documented policies or by improving the efficacy of intervention.