"Psychological Safety" Crucial to an Organization's Culture of Safety, Study Suggests

February 27, 2019 | Strategic Insights for Health System


Psychological safety—defined as "the willingness to take interpersonal risks at work, whether to admit error, ask a question, seek help, or simply say 'I don't know'"—can be critical to effective collaboration in environments like hospitals that involve dynamic teams, high stakes, and significant interdependence, according to a February 21, 2019, article in the New England Journal of Medicine. However, too often, those in the medical profession will stay silent rather than risk alienating a colleague or admitting ignorance. In one instance, a patient suffered brain death after an air embolism had formed during heart transplant surgery, the author (a cardiac surgeon) recounts; afterward, the surgeon learned that the perfusionist knew that air had been pumped into the man's circulation while the aorta was not cross-clamped, but did not speak up.

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