The Business of Practice: Psychological Safety

Psychological safety in the workplace means there is an environment where it is safe to speak up, admit mistakes and offer ideas.
veterinarian giving time-out hand gesture
Psychological safety in the workplace means there is an environment where it is safe to speak up, admit mistakes and offer ideas.

What is psychological safety in equine veterinary practice? Stacey Cordivano, DVM, talks about psychological safety in this episode of The Business of Practice Podcast.

Cordivano defines psychological safety as “creating a workplace environment where it is safe to speak up, admit mistakes and offer ideas.”

Early in the podcast, Cordivano talks about what psychological safety in a veterinary practice is and isn’t. She said this is team-based where everyone feels they have a say and are valued. She said staff can have “safe” conversations about ideas, things that aren’t going well or figuring out how to deal with situations.

“If you feel ‘safe’ and have a say, you are less likely to be disenfranchised,” said Cordivano. “If everyone is invested in the organization, then employee engagement ramps up. You have lower employee turnover. It’s good for business. It makes people want to stay and they are happier with their lives at work.”

“Mistakes, I’ve Made a Few”

Psychological safety includes being able to admit and discuss mistakes from the top down.

“Being vulnerable and admitting mistakes is huge” for psychological safety, said Cordivano.

She said you can have meetings where the owner starts with something that didn’t go well for him or her that week. Everyone can talk. Cordivano said “be intentional. Show the team that no one is perfect.”

If a young veterinarian or tech doesn’t feel comfortable with a procedure she/he is expected to perform, create a plan to help that person. “You can give tips and partner” for some of the procedures, she advised. “Then check back in to see if it was helpful or if they still need to learn something.”

Help Is Available

Cordivano said all AAEP members should know that there is free, short-term counseling available through that organization. “You can also sign up your team,” she said.

While there are many books, courses and papers available on psychological safety, she recommends The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth and The 4 Stages of Psychological Safety: Defining the Path to Inclusion and Innovation.

Editor’s note: Also check out Dr. Amy Grice’s 2022 AAEP Convention Coverage article Psychological Safety in Equine Practice, and Cordivano’s and Dr. Kelly Zeytoonian’s The Business of Practice podcast on Employee Engagement. Also worthwhile is the article by Drs. Cordivano and Zeytoonian titled AAEP Commission on Veterinary Sustainability: The Key to Successful Teams in Equine Practice.

About Dr. Cordivano

Stacey Cordivano, DVM, is a graduate of Penn State University and the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. She completed a one-year internship at B.W. Furlong and Associates in New Jersey. Her training focused on sports medicine, internal medicine and general ambulatory practice. She subsequently spent an intensive six months in Ocala, Florida, expanding her experience in the lameness field as an associate with Furlong and Associates.

Cordivano has performed the duties of treating veterinarian at numerous three day events and horse shows. She also served as a state veterinarian at a Standardbred harness racing track in Chester, Pennsylvania, for three years. She founded Clay Creek Equine Veterinary Services in 2010 and expanded to a two-doctor practice in 2021.

In 2011, Dr. Cordivano completed an intense course focusing on animal chiropractic techniques at the Options for Animals Chiropractic School in Kansas and gained her IVCA certification. She has been excited to see the excellent results of adding the chiropractic knowledge into the rest of her general practice. Her interests include performance issues in the sport horse, alternative medicine and emergency medicine.

She is an active member of the American Association of Equine Practitioners and now serves on the Wellness Committee.

Dr. Cordivano enjoys hiking and trail riding. You will generally find her listening to podcasts on the way to her next appointment!

Don’t miss Cordivano’s podcast The Whole Veterinarian on her website or on your favorite podcast network!

Disclaimer: This content is subject to change without notice and is offered for informational use only. You are urged to consult with your individual business, financial, legal, tax and/or other advisors with respect to any information presented. Synchrony and any of its affiliates, including CareCredit (collectively, “Synchrony”), make no representations or warranties regarding this content and accept no liability for any loss or harm arising from the use of the information provided. All statements and opinions in this article are the sole opinions of the author and roundtable participants. Your receipt of this material constitutes your acceptance of these terms and conditions

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