Health and social care professionals' experience of psychological safety within their occupational setting: a scoping review and thematic synthesis

Josephine Hoegh, Gemma Rice, Shruti Shetty, Aoife Ure, Nicola Cogan, Nicola Peddie

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Psychological safety (PS) in the workplace plays a essential role in helping health and social care professionals (HSCPs) function in interpersonally challenging work environments. PS encapsulates the extent to which an individual feels understood and cared for, and capable of speaking up, admitting to mistakes, and showing compassion towards others. While much of the research on psychological safety, to date, has focused on teams, little work has sought to synthesis what is understood to be important to HSCPs’ in terms of their lived experiences of PS across diverse health and/or social care settings. A scoping review qualitatively synthesising primary research literature exploring barriers and enablers of PS as experienced by HSCPs was conducted.

A thematic synthesis investigating HSCPs’ experiences of PS in the workplace was utilised in accordance with the Joanna Briggs Institute guidance on best practice for conducting scoping reviews. Line-by-line coding of the qualitative findings of primary research studies was conducted and organised into analytical themes. The Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP checklist) was used to assess the quality of papers included based on reliability, relevance, and conclusions drawn. A systematic search of appropriate databases (PsycINFO, CINAHL, and Web of Science) was conducted which allowed for a two-step screening process and data charting. Inclusion criteria for this review dictated that eligible studies that: (1) included participants that were health and/or social care professionals (2) included the term ‘psychological safety', (3) adopted a qualitative research component (4) were primary research, (4) were published post-2001 and (5) were published in English.

In total, 41 papers involving 3475 participants were included in the review. The included studies were published between 2001 and 2023 and were conducted across 17 different countries. A review of the papers revealed two enabling themes: (1) personal factors (self-care, peer support), (2) feeling safe within the team (open communication, supportive colleagues, supervision) and four barrier themes: (3) exposure to traumatic incidents in the workplace, (4) organisational stressors, (5) limited access to training and knowledge development, and (6) negative workplace culture.

While enabling factors that helped facilitate experiences of PS in the workplace were identified, the majority of research emphasised barriers to PS as experienced by HSCPs. These findings can be used to inform future research, protocols, and interventions aimed at improving PS at the individual, team and organisational level across diverse health and social care settings. Positive experiences of PS can lead to a reduction in mistakes, injuries and traumatic stress in the workplace, improved HSCPs’ wellbeing and job satisfaction, and increased patient safety.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2023
Event14th NRS Mental Health Network Annual Scientific Meeting
- University of Strathclyde, Glasgow
Duration: 30 Oct 202330 Oct 2023


Conference14th NRS Mental Health Network Annual Scientific Meeting
Internet address


  • psychological safety
  • health and social care workers
  • scoping review


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