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Read the Latest From BOPDHB CE, Helen Mason - 11 June 2019

We recently had a Grand Round on Psychological Safety which was very impactful on a number of levels.


Psychological safety and teaming in healthcare

We recently had a Grand Round on Psychological Safety which was very impactful on a number of levels. Psychological safety is about creating an open, high trust environment where people feel safe and supported. A lack of psychological safety is evident when people don’t feel free to share their honest thoughts, have a fear of reprisals or experience a low trust environment.

The Grand Round began with a Ted Talk from Harvard Business School Amy Edmondson on “Teaming”, and specifically ‘How to turn a group of strangers into a team’. If you weren’t there or haven’t seen it, it’s definitely worth watching; the link is included here: 

Amy focusses on how teams that are not permanently together can still work well together; where people come together quickly (and often temporarily) to solve new, urgent or unusual problems.

The Harvard Business School methodology for learning is a case study methodology and one of the case studies Amy has looked at closely is that of the incredible rescue of 33 miners trapped half-a-mile underground in Chile in 2010.

She describes this famous rescue effort as 10 weeks of teaming, with hundreds of individuals from different professions, companies, sectors and countries coming together to tackle a joint problem. They had no shared culture, shared organisational imperatives or hierarchy but they managed to solve a very difficult problem and successfully rescued the miners. She teases out exactly what enabled that to happen.

Amy studies ‘teaming’ because it’s the way more and more of us have to work today. One workplace environment she studies a lot is that of hospitals.

Hospitals are places where teaming is highly in evidence. The average hospital patient is seen by 60 or so different caregivers, she says. These are people on different shifts or with different specialties or areas of expertise. They may not know each other but they have to coordinate to deliver great care. So this concept is very relevant for us.

I spoke with our Emergency Medicine Specialist Dr Jo Cole after the Grand Round and was very interested to hear her take on ‘teams’ and ‘teaming’ within our own hospital environment.

“In our hospital environment we ask a lot of our ‘teams’,” said Jo. “Our teams may be geographically or temporally dislocated even though they are caring for the same patient. Or they may be ‘teams’ who meet only once, at very short notice in high stress situations.

“Recognition of how this differs from other classic examples of teams (All Blacks, Team NZ, Nascar pit crew, etc) helps us to reflect on and develop not only the personal skills and attributes needed but also, equally importantly, the environmental and systems factors that need to be adapted to help our teams perform at our best during these times.

“Once we recognise the importance of these individual, environmental and systems factors we can focus on ‘teaming’ skills within our organisation. And we can build and grow a workplace culture that supports this – one built on trust, psychological safety, connection and compassion.”

When we’re talking about our own psychological safety it’s important to remember the link that has with, and to, our patients’ safety. It was a link brought home to me by our new Clinical Director, Health Quality and Patient Safety Service, Dr Jerome Ng. At the end of the day all of us are here to deliver great care to our communities so that’s really why we want psychological safety, to deliver the very best care we can. Jerome speaks more about this later in this newsletter.

It was a great Grand Round and I was impressed by the number of people who attended. If there had been more time I would like to have asked one question of those present:

• What were you expecting/hoping for from this session?

I would still be very interested to know the answer to that question if anyone who was there would like to email me and let me know. Contact me on

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