When a health-care workplace is composed of people of all backgrounds, it can sometimes make it difficult for them to get along. There are clear benefits to encouraging an environment where teamwork is commonplace. A collaborative environment is one where innovation occurs, people feel supported by their peers and leaders and outcomes for the organization are continuously improving. The benefits of teamwork in health care are similar to those found in other industries, except that teamwork in the medical field can mean the difference between life and death for patients.

Benefits of Collaboration

Nurses need to collaborate not only with one another but also with residents and physicians in positions of leadership. Collaboration is critical because nurses often take the lead in engaging with patients on a regular basis. They are the most likely to see early changes in a patient, meaning they are particularly critical in settings where patient care requires constant attention.

Considering how likely it is for them to spot early warning signs in a patient, good communication needs to exist between the nurse and the physicians they work with.

Interprofessional collaboration between nurses is necessary for the same reason that collaboration between nurses, surgeons, general practitioners and other senior health-care leaders is necessary.

The treatment of a patient may require health-care professionals from various backgrounds to coordinate with one another to create and deliver a comprehensive treatment plan. Only by encouraging an environment where interprofessional collaboration is the norm can health-care facilities improve outcomes for patients.

Benefits of Nursing Teamwork

When discussing the advantages and disadvantages of teamwork in health care, there are few downsides. Teamwork leads to better patient outcomes. It also creates a greater sense of satisfaction among the staff. When nurses cooperate and work well with each other, they are more likely to feel happy in their duties, feel more committed to their employers and go out of their way to do better work.

Health-Care Practitioners and Collaboration

Teamwork doesn’t only happen between different practitioners who hold similar positions in the workplace hierarchy. Medical residents and nurses engage in collaboration with one another, supporting each other and working toward better outcomes for patients. Typically in these relationships, residents act as leaders with nurses carrying out duties assigned to them.

Some residents choose to bring nurses onboard with leadership duties, empowering them to be more proactive and autonomous.

Nurses are also willing and positive about collaborating with their superiors. Physicians often feel as if they’re communicating enough with nurses, but nurses often want communications to be even more open.

Nurses feel strongly that they can work with physicians to create better outcomes for patients. As a result, when collaboration is low between nurses and physicians, it’s often the physicians who haven’t invested as much effort into collaboration as they could have.

Challenges to Teamwork and Collaboration

There are a number of barriers to collaboration between general practitioners and nurses in the health-care environment.

One of the reasons that nurses aren’t brought onboard with the decision-making process is because of a lack of trust that exists between practitioners and nurses. A lack of trust creates a discouraging environment where morale is low among nurses. When trust is low, doctors rarely discuss their cases with nurses despite the fact that nurses spend so much time working hands-on with patients.

The lack of communication between practitioners and nurses is hindered even more by the hierarchy and structure that exists in family practices.

It’s also common for only some kinds of nurses to be trusted with critical information. Doctors are less likely to share information with enrolled nurses, and nurses often ended up feeling confused about their roles in the practice. Some general practitioners may feel as if it is inappropriate to discuss cases with nurses and prefer to limit duties to themselves.

This lack of trust and communication only creates a poor environment for nurses to work in.

Improving Attitudes toward Teamwork

Generally, improving attitudes toward teamwork is considered one of the first steps to encouraging teamwork. One method of doing this, the Team Strategies and Tools to Enhance Performance and Patient Safety – or TeamSTEPPS approach – has been used to help create significant changes within health-care organizations.

This approach emphasizes the importance of communication, leadership, support for peers and continuous situation monitoring as a means of improving work within a medical organization. TeamSTEPPS is an example of improving teamwork because it emphasizes collaboration and the qualities of increased knowledge, improved performance and positive attitudes among all members of a healthcare unit.

Improving attitudes starts with making the need for change apparent. Anytime an organization is attempting to change its normal way of doing things, it is important to create a sense of urgency about why the change may be helpful.

Leaders should emphasize to staff how teamwork can help create better outcomes for patients, which benefits the organization but also professionally benefits everyone working within the facility. Once the sense of urgency has been created, a method such as TeamSTEPPS can be used to improve communication.

The importance of having a system like TeamSTEPPS in place is that it helps make communications easier. In many cases, health-care professionals remain unsure about trying to change existing means of communication.

TeamSTEPPS, or any number of other models meant to improve communication, helps address these concerns by putting into place a system for managing patients, particularly when patients are being handed off to another shift.

Attitudes toward these kinds of changes improve when a proven system is put into place, rather than emphasizing increased communication without putting into place a system that makes such communication possible.

Improving Health-Care Collaboration

The disadvantages of teamwork in nursing and other parts of medical practice are few to nonexistent. This makes it important to increase teamwork in the medical field. One of the keys to improving collaboration between nurses and physicians seems to be improving communication.

Nurses noted that there is not enough communication between them and physicians leading them. This phenomenon occurs in several different medical settings.

The fact that a lack of communication occurs so frequently in diverse settings seems to show that improving patient outcomes may not require a massive change and instead only require an improvement in communications.

In addition to improving trust and collaboration, studies have shown the importance of creating a patient-centered environment. An environment that is highly focused on delivering the very best care to patients is often conducive to improving communication between nurses and physicians.

When physicians remember to prioritize the good of the patient, they are more willing to share duties and communicate concerns with their staff. Because of this, creating a collaborative environment starts with setting a tone for a practice that puts patients first.

A patient-centered environment isn’t only beneficial for the relationship between nurses and doctors, but in settings where there are many health-care professionals involved in the care of a patient. When a patient requires care from many different types of medical professionals, a high degree of coordination is necessary to make sure the patient doesn’t suffer from any complications. When health-care organizations put into place an environment where communication is prioritized and trusting relationships developed, it becomes easier for medical professionals to deliver the highest level of care possible.