Psychological safety and emergency department team performance: A mixed-methods study

Eve Purdy, Laura Borchert, Anthony El-Bitar, Warwick Isaacson, Cindy Jones, Lucy Bills, Victoria Brazil

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Abstract

OBJECTIVES: Team culture underpins team performance. Psychological safety - 'a shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking' - is a critical component of team culture for high-performing teams across contexts. However, psychological safety in ED teams has not been well explored. We aimed to explore this core teamwork concept in the ED.

METHODS: This was a sequential mixed-methods study of nursing and medical staff at a large tertiary care ED in Australia from October 2020 to March 2021. First, participants completed the 'Team Learning and Psychological Safety Survey' and a narrative questionnaire. These findings informed semi-structured interviews. We determined median psychological safety and compared results across role and length of time working in the department. Qualitative results were analysed using a deductive thematic analysis using a previously generated framework for enablers of psychological safety at the individual, team and organisational levels.

RESULTS: The survey was completed by 72/410 participants and 19 interviews were conducted. The median psychological safety score was 37/49 (IQR 13). Psychological safety was not experienced universally, with nurses and new staff experiencing lower levels. Individual, team and organisational factors impacted psychological safety. The primary force shaping psychological safety was familiarity with colleagues and leaders.

CONCLUSION: Familiarity of team members and leaders was critical to the development of psychological safety within the ED. Fostering familiarity should be a focus for frontline leadership each shift and a priority in broader departmental decisions for those seeking to enhance the psychological safety of their teams.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEMA - Emergency Medicine Australasia
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Dec 2022

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