Practicing psychological safety in the workplace

Debriefing is a critical component of the learning process in medical simulation. It’s here that learners reflect on their simulation experience. They discuss with others how to improve. And they gain feedback from facilitators, faculty and anyone else involved in the event.

Medical simulation exercise in progress.

As part of this process, it’s important that facilitators practice psychological safety. This is a method of creating an environment where learners feel safe to have open, sometimes difficult, conversations about their performance without feeling shamed.

For those of us leading debriefs, this means asking questions to understand why a learner acted in a certain way. It means avoiding judgment and ensuring participants aren’t humiliated. It also means allowing learners to walk away with knowledge of what they did well and what they can improve.

In simulation, we live and breathe psychological safety every day. But how do we know if we're practicing it within our own teams? We decided to find out by participating in a psychological safety scan of our organization. The results were eye-opening.

Psychological safety: a necessity for innovation

Based on the book, The Fearless Organization, psychological safety in the workplace is the belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or even mistakes. We believe this is a key factor in the success of innovation.

What is innovation if not failing often, trying something new and thinking in ways we haven’t thought of before to solve complex problems? Having that openness and ability to collect all relevant perspectives is critical.   

Following anonymous data collection via a survey platform from The Fearless Organization, we held a series of debriefings to explore the results. Nancy Bardugon, who has been a nationally recognized leader in simulation, led each session.

How did we do?

While our median scores for each of the four domains in the Psychological Safety Index (Willingness to Help, Inclusivity & Diversity, Attitude to Risk & Failure and Open Conversations) were positive, it was compelling to see the wide range of scores reported by the individuals that make up our team.

Each result was anonymous, but we could see that different members of the team were experiencing Jump in different ways. This has inspired me to find ways to improve communication across our distributed teams, and strengthen our collective and individual commitment to perspective taking, so that each of us has a voice that is heard.

Categories: Communication, Culture of Safety, Education, Innovation, Simulation