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  • Surgical doctors needed for psychological safety research

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    Are you a surgical doctor working in the NHS? Could you spare 1 hour of your time to share your insights and help researchers explore psychological safety?

    Shinal Patel-Thakkar, a trainee Clinical Psychologist, is seeking participants for a qualitative research study into psychological safety in surgical environments. In this interview she tells us more about the study, how people can register their interest, and provides reassurance that confidentiality will be maintained.


    Hi Shinal, can you start by explaining what psychological safety means?

    Psychological safety is an individual’s perception that they can take interpersonal risks, such as speaking up, asking questions, and sharing ideas without facing repercussions for their professional standing or risking their status within work teams or groups through humiliation, shame or rejection for example. These outcomes make psychological safety especially important within work environments where the stakes are seen as particularly high.

    Why does it matter?

    Recent studies in healthcare have demonstrated that psychological safety influences:

    • patient safety
    • inter-professional collaboration
    • engagement in quality improvement work
    • learning from failures
    • reporting adverse events.

    When healthcare professionals feel psychologically unsafe, they may hesitate to communicate openly about errors, raise concerns about patient care, or share innovative ideas for improvement. This reluctance to speak up can lead to issues compromising patient safety. 

    Work environments characterised by teams and leaders that foster an atmosphere of open feedback, continuous development, and learning create the healthiest conditions. This approach supports staff members in reporting issues without the fear of facing repercussions.[1]

    What are you hoping to explore with your research?

    The study aims to understand how surgeons define the concept of psychological safety in their work environments.

    What barriers do they feel exist in achieving a psychologically safe working environment?

    What components and factors do surgeons feel would make an environment psychologically safe?

    What do they feel their role as leaders is in achieving psychologically safe environments? 

    Why surgeons?

    The designated ‘leader’ within the surgical environment, typically the surgeon,[2] should display behaviours that promote effective communication and teamwork. This is essential for optimising patient safety, team performance and cultivating a culture in which people feel psychologically safe to evolve and learn. The dynamics found in surgical environments also often influence the overall cultural norms within teams and organisations,[3] so there is also potential to have a really positive knock-on effect.

    How can I take part and what will it involve?

    We are recruiting NHS surgical doctors to take part in this qualitative research. They can be working in any department, and we welcome applicants of all levels (juniors, registrars, consultants, etc.).

    Research participation will involve a 1-hour (maximum) online video interview via MS Teams or Zoom, which will be recorded. 

    How will data and confidentiality be protected?

    There are a number of ways we make sure that participant data is protected, and confidentiality is upheld:

    • Data used in the research write-up will be completely anonymised; this means that names and identifiable information of the participant will not be used whatsoever. 
    • Data remains password protected and stored on the university’s secure online drive.
    • Participants can opt to use a pseudo name when signing onto the video call and they can have their camera turned off.
    • Participants can withdraw from the study at any point (even after the interview) by emailing me, and without providing any explanation. 

    How can I sign up or find out more informally?

    Participants can email me, s.thakkar3@herts.ac.uk, to sign up for the study or to ask any questions. There is also more information attached at the bottom of this page. 

    How do you hope your research will help to support patient safety?

    We hope that the study outcomes will support in guiding surgeons and other professionals to acknowledge potential issues in work cultures, especially in relation to psychologically safe environments.

    The outcomes will also help guide how psychologically safety can exist for professionals working in healthcare environments where the stakes are seen as high. Where errors, mishaps, and suggestions for improvements in patient care and safety can be openly shared.

    Will you keep us posted on the research project and your findings?

    Yes, absolutely! 


    1. Edmondson, A. C. (2003). Speaking up in the operating room: How team leaders promote learning in interdisciplinary action teams. Journal of management studies40(6), 1419-1452.
    2. Edmondson, A. C. (2003). Speaking up in the operating room: How team leaders promote learning in interdisciplinary action teams. Journal of management studies, 40(6), 1419-1452.
    3. Grailey, K. E., Murray, E., Reader, T., & Brett, S. J. (2021). The presence and potential impact of psychological safety in the healthcare setting: an evidence synthesis. BMC health services research, 21(1), 1-15.

    Can we help you with your research?

    Can we help you? Where the topic is relevant to patient safety, we can work with researchers in a number of ways: 

    • To help recruit participants.
    • To share links to published papers via the hub and through our social media.
    • To create content (blogs, interviews, videos) that help provide context around findings or research projects.

    Contact the hub team at content@pslhub.org to discuss further.

    About the Author

    Shinal Patel-Thakkar is a Trainee Clinical Psychologist in her final year of a Clinical Psychology Doctorate (DClinPsych). Before training, she delved into clinical and research psychology by completing a master’s degree in clinical psychology research. She has also worked as a Research Assistant in various projects, ranging from working with people experiencing psychosis and auditory hallucinations to those with long-term medically unexplained pain symptoms. She has worked clinically as an assistant psychologist and a trainee CBT therapist in areas of primary mental health difficulties, eating disorders, psychosis, PTSD, and learning difficulties in community, inpatient and prison settings. 


    RecruitmentPoster.png Participantinformationsheet(1).docx
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