Patient safety: Psychological safety in perspective

The patient is one of the most vulnerable persons in society.

They are unable to express themselves without the support of family and friends. Indeed, sometimes their need for the basic necessities of life is not fully met due to factors such as inadequate funds, stigma and cultural beliefs.

The relationship between the patients and the clinical and non-clinical staff in some hospitals leaves much to be desired. Frankly, some of these patients are left on the hook struggling to fend for themselves and stifling to identify a trustworthy person to answer their most pressing questions, share suggestions on the outlook of their health and discuss issues pertaining to their health and livelihoods.

But who would listen to them and do they feel comfortable to share them?

What is Psychological Safety?

Amy Gallo (2023) defined psychological safety as the shared belief held by members of a team that it’s fine to take risks, to express their ideas and concerns, to speak up with questions, and to admit mistakes — all without fear of negative consequences.

Within a hospital setting, psychological safety is the willingness and courage of staff, patients and community members to voice their opinions on matters affecting the progress of the facility or themselves without fear of intimidation, reprisal, shame, blame or making a mistake.

Psychological safety of patients – Who cares?

To what extent are patients willing to voice their frustrations on the care they received, to what extent is management willing to receive and work on the concerns of the patients, how many patients have died for fear of undermining the knowledge of the doctor as such were unwilling to voice out medical conditions unknown to the doctor and have been issued with the wrong medication.

Do the management of medical facilities respect the voice of the patient? Such questions have moved some healthcare facilities to adopt strategies or initiatives to nurture the psychological safety of patients.

One of such initiatives is the adoption of the Neuroception of Psychological Safety Scale (NPSS), developed by the University of Strathclyde. Others include; Patient satisfaction surveys, social welfare schemes and Patient Safety Training programs.

Psychological safety is one of the growing disciplines across the globe. It helps patients develop the confidence to question medications given to them and enquire about the features, severity and treatment options of their medical conditions.

Again, it fosters collaboration between the patients and the medical practitioners as it unearths the potential ideas that may help resolve any social or psychological issue the patient may be facing aside from the medical condition.

In an era where holistic care encourages a complete treatment of patients, the psychological safety of the patient must not be neglected as it contributes significantly to the drive for holistic care. The management of healthcare facilities in Ghana should urgently put interventions in place to nurture psychologically safe patients.

The writer is an Institutional Assessment Practitioner,
E-mail: hattanyame@gmail.com

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