Illustration by ANDREA D’AQUINO

Psychological Safety in the Workplace

OUR EXPERT: Amy Daniels, PhD ’18, MS ’12, BSN ’89, RN, CHSE

Research has found that organizations benefit from diversity of thought, and groups of people with different life experiences are better able to recognize problems and offer creative solutions. But what if team members don’t feel comfortable speaking up because they’re worried about rejection or embarrassment?

Ensuring psychological safety – the belief that you won’t be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes – is critical so people are more likely to share their knowledge and input.

“Psychological safety increases innovation to identify alternative processes and improve outcomes,” says Amy Daniels, PhD ’18, MS ’12, BSN ’89, RN, CHSE, assistant professor and director of the Clinical Simulation Labs. While the concept of psychological safety originated in the world of organizational behavior, Daniels explains that it can also be applied in learning environments. Specializing in psychological safety in simulation-based nursing education through debriefing, she supports nursing students and encourages them to speak up to promote patient safety and fewer patient care errors.

Through her research and work facilitating interactive workshops on strategies to create and maintain psychological safety, Daniels has shared three guiding principles that can be used to foster a more psychologically safe working environment. “There’s no better time than now to create psychological safety in the workplace,” Daniels says. “We are all trying to get through these tumultuous times, and we need all of our minds working together to help pave the path forward.”

  1. Set the Stage
    Create an environment in which team members believe they can speak up and provide important perspectives to colleagues and supervisors that assist in improving patient safety without concern that their ideas will be discounted. Every member of the health care team offers a valuable contribution and should be considered part of the solution. Fostering this type of environment requires holding members of the health care team to high standards, treating them with respect, setting clear expectations, and modeling vulnerability so others see it as the norm and not as the exception.
  2. Invite Multiple Perspectives
    Asking for and encouraging many perspectives about situations not only opens the floor for participants to engage in solution-making but also to learn from one another and to recognize there are multiple approaches and varied options to consider. This also creates an opportunity for all to learn new ways of thinking and for individuals to perceive their input as a valuable part of the solution.
  3. Collaborate Constructively
    Motivate those involved by acknowledging their contributions to the solution. Providing opportunities for brainstorming enhances the generation of ideas for team members to buy into, and therefore increases the opportunity for
    successful outcomes.



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