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Promoting Psychological Safety for Physicians

June 29, 2017

Psychological safety is defined as “the degree to which people view the environment as conducive to interpersonally risky behaviours like speaking up or asking for help”. Without psychological safety, physicians and others are less likely to suggest new ideas, offer feedback, or seek assistance for fear of reprisal or embarrassment. 

Recognizing inevitable tensions in the health care environment, Doctors of BC seeks to promote psychologically safe workplaces where physicians are encouraged to speak out on issues relating to patient care. To promote this, the Council on Health Economics and Policy (CHEP) has developed a policy statement titled Promoting Psychological Safety for Physicians.

Approved by the Board of Directors in June 2017, this new policy commits Doctors of BC to work with the BC Ministry of Health, health authorities, and other stakeholders to implement policies and practices that promote psychological safety for physicians and all health care providers. Specifically, Doctors of BC makes recommendations and commitments in the following areas:

  1. Supporting advocacy by physicians.
  2. Promoting inclusive management practices.
  3. Enhancing provider experience and quality improvement.
  4. Supporting fairness in dispute resolution systems.

In health care, psychological safety not only contributes to the well-being of health care providers, but is also crucial for organizational efforts aimed at reducing medical errors, enhancing care coordination, improving quality of care, and increasing cost effectiveness.  Doctors of BC also encourages health authorities and other stakeholders to challenge the discourse of “disruptive physician behaviour” in favour of promoting psychological safety for all health care providers.

For more information on Doctors of BC’s recommendations and commitments, please see the full policy statement.