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– The purpose of this paper is to explore employee perceptions of communication in psychologically safe and unsafe clinical care environments.
The purpose of this paper is to explore employee perceptions of communication in psychologically safe and unsafe clinical care environments.
Clinical providers at the USA Veterans Health Administration were interviewed as part of planning organizational interventions. They discussed strengths, weaknesses, and desired changes in their workplaces. A subset of respondents also discussed workplace psychological safety (i.e. employee perceptions of being able to speak up or report errors without retaliation or ostracism – Edmondson, 1999). Two trained coders analysed the interview data using a grounded theory-based method. They excerpted passages that discussed job-related communication and summarized specific themes. Subsequent analyses compared frequencies of themes across workgroups defined as having psychologically safe vs unsafe climate based upon an independently administered employee survey.
Perceptions of work-related communication differed across clinical provider groups with high vs low psychological safety. The differences in frequencies of communication-related themes across the compared groups matched the expected pattern of problem-laden communication characterizing psychologically unsafe workplaces.
Previous research implied the existence of a connection between communication and psychological safety whereas this study offers substantive evidence of it. The paper summarized the differences in perceptions of communication in high vs low psychological safety environments drawing from qualitative data that reflected clinical providers’ direct experience on the job. The paper also illustrated the conclusions with multiple specific examples. The findings are informative to health care providers seeking to improve communication within care delivery teams.