How to Manage Your Fear to Focus on Patient Safety Goals

Nurses and other healthcare professionals don’t always speak up when it comes to their patient safety goals. There are some serious shortcuts taken but very few workers confront anyone about it.

Why are so few willing to speak up about the patient’s safety?

Healthcare workers feel that they are being constantly evaluated. This adds extra stress to their work-life because they feel they are under continued scrutiny at work. The main reason healthcare providers don’t speak up is because they feel it’s not safe to do so.

If the environment a healthcare professional works in is a psychologically safe environment, then the workers feel they won’t have any adverse consequences for reporting an issue or asking for help. But if they don’t feel safe, they won’t report.

There Are Several Fears That Promote Silence

Patient safety goals can be affected when a healthcare professional is feeling any type of fear to speak up about their concerns.

These fears include being perceived as:

  • Ignorant
  • Incompetent
  • Negative
  • Disruptive

Fear Of Being Perceived As Ignorant

A nurse or other healthcare professional may not ask questions about something they’re not sure about, whether it’s a certain procedure or evaluation for a patient. If they ask questions they feel that other workers will look down on them for not knowing these seemingly basic procedures.

It’s possible that a nurse or other professional has never worked with certain types of care in the past, but they’re too afraid to ask for help. What can happen is they unknowingly perform certain tasks but don’t do all the techniques involved which can cause infections for the patients or other discomforts.

Related: How to Help Stress and Burnout in Healthcare Professionals

Fear Of Being Viewed As Incompetent

Someone who fears being incompetent is less likely to report a mistake or near-miss. 

If a professional almost gives a patient the wrong medication, which is considered a near-miss, they won’t report this because they fear that their peers or if they have a manager, might think they are totally incompetent.

It could’ve been a distraction, for example, for a nurse that prevented her from not being totally aware of the medications she had to give out. If those types of distractions and mistakes aren’t reported because of fear, then others won’t learn from this and maybe preventative measures could be made so that all nurses could avoid future medication errors. 

Fear Of Being Seen As Negative

Sometimes a nurse or other healthcare professional notices something that caused a patient to experience certain discomfort, for example, the patient may have fallen because they needed help walking but no one answered the call bell soon enough. 

The nurse who noticed the delay in answering the call bell doesn’t tell her manager because she fears being seen as a negative person. 

The nurse manager may have noticed a certain number of falls that happened and, at the staff meeting, is wanting to discuss ways that they could’ve been prevented. But the nurse who knows why won’t tell the manager because of her fear. 

But if she does speak up, she would be helping the situation instead. Together with her manager and team, they could come up with new strategies to help in those types of situations. Future falls could be prevented.

Speaking up can help in all situations when it comes to focusing on patient safety goals. 

Fear Of Being Seen As Disruptive

Before surgery, it would be very efficient if the nurse checked to see if everything was running smoothly and the correct instructions were prepared.

An example of surgery going wrong because a nurse is full of the fear of being seen as disruptive would be that she didn’t check to see if the patient’s correct hip is marked for surgery.

Now that mistake is huge!

The surgeon may be in a hurry and asks everyone to be as efficient as possible, so the nurse doesn’t check. She keeps her concerns to herself.

It’s very possible the surgeon could operate on the wrong hip because of this fear the nurse had.

Communication Failure Is The Leading Cause Of Patient Harm

Communication needs to be a top priority for all healthcare professionals. 

Healthcare workers need to have certain skills when dealing with patients. These include active listening, always giving the right response to whatever a patient is concerned about, taking the time to properly assess body language, and not having a judgmental attitude towards patients. 

Those are all important skills each healthcare professional is called to have. It’s so important to know how to communicate in the healthcare industry. It will prevent injuries and death. With good and constant communication, a patient will trust their caregiver more readily. Communicating also strengthens relationships with other people you work with.

Patient harm is usually caused by failing to communicate in some areas. This problem can be overcome if everyone felt there was psychological safety in their work environment. 

How To Fix Communication Failure With Your Team to Meet Your Safety Goals

Excellent communication is important for healthcare professionals, especially when discussing procedures or patient needs. Also communicating the proper information about the patients’ history and their up to date information is vital. Without proper communication and relaying of information, there is a higher risk of patient injuries and death. Malpractice also goes up. 

If you work with a team of nurses who have to exchange patient information at shift changes, this can take a long time. The next nurse on the shift will end up taking a long time before they begin their contact with patients. Many patients feel an absence of care during a shift change. 

It’s important for nurses to have a more organized way of communicating all the information concerning the patients. Making the shift change with patients is one way to improve and involve the patient to be sure there are no mistakes.

Every area needs direct communication. If certain areas are left out, situations can end up being disastrous. Care needs to be taken to communicate properly to your superiors and others that you work with. Using software also provides a way for everyone to share information and to write notes to each other. 

Instead Of Being Silent, Speak Up! 

To avoid patient harm, healthcare professionals need to feel safe in order to speak up when they see something that could’ve been done differently. A patient’s safety should be the number one concern at all times. 


It’s so important to have a safe environment for healthcare professionals to focus on their patient safety goals. The environment has to be psychologically safe so they don’t have these fears which keeps them silent.