The Importance Of Psychological Safety In Post-Acute Care

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What Is Psychological Safety?

Psychological safety, a term coined by Amy Edmondson, refers to an individual’s perception of the consequences of taking interpersonal risks in a work environment. In healthcare, particularly in post-acute care settings, this translates to the confidence team members have to voice concerns, ask questions, and admit mistakes without fear of retribution or ridicule. Establishing psychological safety is crucial, as it encourages open communication, which is essential for patient safety, collaboration, and continuous improvement.

The concept extends beyond just the absence of harassment or overt conflict; it encompasses a culture where respect, confidentiality, and support are ingrained. When healthcare professionals operate in a psychologically safe environment, they are more likely to engage in proactive problem-solving and innovation, crucial for adapting to the dynamic challenges and rising acuity of those receiving care. 

The Importance of Psychological Safety in Post-Acute Care

Post-acute care settings, including rehabilitation centers, skilled nursing facilities,  home health agencies and others, face unique challenges that make psychological safety particularly crucial:

  1. Complex patient needs: Post-acute care often involves managing patients with multiple chronic conditions, requiring coordinated care from diverse healthcare professionals.
  2. High-stakes decision-making: Caregivers must make critical decisions that directly impact patient outcomes and safety.
  3. Rapidly changing healthcare landscape: Post-acute care providers must adapt to evolving regulations, technologies, and best practices.

In these environments, psychological safety can lead to improved patient care, increased innovation, and better overall outcomes.

The Impact of Psychological Safety on Post-Acute Care Teams

Research has shown that psychological safety has a profound impact on healthcare outcomes. A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that higher levels of team psychological safety are linked to better patient outcomes and higher quality of care. In post-acute settings, where patients often require complex, multidisciplinary care, the stakes are particularly high. Teams that feel safe to communicate openly are less likely to make errors and more likely to catch potential issues before they escalate.

Statistics from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) suggest that healthcare organizations with strong safety cultures, including psychological safety, have lower rates of adverse events. This data underscores the tangible benefits of fostering a psychologically safe workplace—not just for healthcare providers, but for the patients they serve.

  1. Enhanced Patient Safety: When staff feel safe to speak up about potential errors or concerns, patient safety improves. This is particularly important in post-acute care, where patients are often vulnerable and require complex care.
  2. Improved Team Collaboration: Psychological safety fosters open communication and collaboration among diverse healthcare professionals, leading to more comprehensive and effective patient care.
  3. Increased Innovation: In a psychologically safe environment, team members are more likely to propose new ideas and solutions, driving continuous improvement in care delivery.
  4. Higher Job Satisfaction and Retention: Employees who feel psychologically safe are more engaged, satisfied with their jobs, and less likely to experience burnout.
  5. Better Learning and Adaptation: Post-acute care settings that prioritize psychological safety create an environment where mistakes are viewed as learning opportunities, fostering a culture of continuous improvement.

Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace

Creating a psychologically safe workplace begins with leadership. Here are the steps you and other leaders in your organization can take to ensure open communication and sharing is the norm, not the exception:

  1. Modeling vulnerability: Leaders should admit their own mistakes and uncertainties, encouraging others to do the same.
  2. Encouraging open dialogue: Create opportunities for team members to share ideas and concerns without fear of reprisal.
  3. Responding positively to input: When team members speak up, leaders should acknowledge their contributions and take appropriate action.
  4. Framing work as learning problems: Emphasize that healthcare is complex and that learning from mistakes is essential for improvement.
  5. Establishing clear guidelines: Create and communicate clear expectations for respectful communication and collaboration.

Training programs aimed at enhancing communication skills and conflict resolution can also promote psychological safety. By equipping staff with the tools to navigate difficult conversations constructively, post-acute care settings can cultivate an environment of mutual respect and understanding. Furthermore, recognizing and rewarding behaviors that contribute to psychological safety can reinforce its value in the organizational culture.


Effective communication is essential to the success of any post-acute care organization. See how showdme is equipping teams like your with the skills they need to foster a culture of listening and understanding.

By prioritizing psychological safety, post-acute care providers can create environments where teams thrive, innovation flourishes, and resident and patient care improves. In an industry where the stakes are high and the challenges are complex, psychological safety is not just beneficial—it’s essential for delivering the highest quality care.

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