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Social emotion and safety in teams: developing an understanding of emotional expression in teams, and an intervention to promote a co-operative emotional climate

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  • Full or part time
    Prof R Lawton
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Patient safety is compromised when working relationships between health professionals falter and there are breakdowns in communication (Hutchinson & Jackson, 2013; Dang et al, 2016). Disruptive and hostile behaviour (e.g. rudeness, intimidating, aggressive) within clinical teams fosters a tone of conflict, increases stress, impairs staff engagement and, ultimately leads to unsafe care (Hutchinson & Jackson, 2013; Rosenstein & Naylor, 2012; Dang et al, 2016). In contrast, we have shown that good working relationships, trust and support for one another improves safety (Baxter et al., in press; Heyhoe, 2013).

The importance of expressed emotions in shaping social interactions and decisions is largely ignored in patient safety research. The Emotions as Social Information Model (EASI: Van Kleef, 2009; Van Kleef, et al., 2010), is a psychological model that proposes that the emotional display (i.e. facial displays, verbal expressions, body postures, tone of voice) of one or a group of individuals influences the judgements and actions of others and has been applied to help explain the link between emotional expression and decisional and behavioural responses within teams in a variety of social situations outside healthcare (Van Doorn et al, 2012; Heerdink et al, 2013; Shlomo et al, 2013).

This programme of research will draw on the EASI model to develop an understanding of emotional expression in teams, and an intervention to promote a co-operative emotional climate. The student will collate research evidence and use the EASI model as a theoretical framework to underpin interviews and focus groups (months 0-15) about social emotion in teams. These will then inform the design of the micro-narratives for safety reporting tool which we will test in maternity services in Bradford (Months 12-24). These data will be used to identify the expressive components that contribute to creating a positive (e.g. cooperation, the open discussion of feelings about clinical cases, treatment strategies and roles and responsibilities) or negative (e.g. hostility, intimidation, competition) emotional team climate. In months 20-30 we will draw on findings to develop and pilot an intervention to foster a positive emotional team climate during team interactions in maternity care. This might be tested first within our high fidelity Patient Safety Simulation Centre at Bradford Royal Infirmary or in the field.


This studentship is funded by CLAHRC Yorkshire and Humber and our new Yorkshire and Humber Patient Safety Translational Research Centre, a partnership between Bradford Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust and University of Leeds. Our aim is to deliver research that makes healthcare safer. Students will be hosted within the School of Psychology, University of Leeds, but will also spend at least one day per week working alongside the Quality and Safety Research group at Bradford Royal Infirmary.


You should hold a first degree equivalent to at least a UK upper second class honours degree in a relevant subject. This project would suit a student with a background in social science or social, clinical, health or occupational psychology OR a healthcare professional with a masters in research. If you are interested in making a difference to patient care and want to work at the cutting edge of research on patient safety we would welcome your application.

The Faculty minimum requirements for candidates whose first language is not English are:

• British Council IELTS - score of 6.5 overall, with no element less than 6.0
• TOEFL iBT - overall score of 92 with the listening and reading element no less than 21, writing element no less than 22 and the speaking element no less than 23.

How to apply

To apply for this scholarship applicants should complete a Faculty Scholarship Application form using the link below http://medhealth.leeds.ac.uk/download/3551/fmh_scholarship_application_2017_18 and send this alongside a full academic CV, degree certificates and transcripts (or marks so far if still studying) to the Faculty Graduate School [email protected]

We also require 2 academic references to support your application. Please ask your referees to send these references on your behalf, directly to [email protected] by no later than Wednesday 31 May 2017

If you have already applied for other scholarships using the Faculty Scholarship Application form you do not need to complete this form again. Instead you should email [email protected] to inform us you would like to be considered for this scholarship project.

Any queries regarding the application process should be directed to [email protected]

Funding Notes

This studentship will commence in October 2017 and will attract an annual tax-free stipend of £14,553 for up to 3 years, subject to satisfactory progress and will cover the UK/EU tuition fees. This funding is provided by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

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