By Sam Weatherford
I have always had a deep-rooted disdain for collaborating and working in groups. I never played team sports and was not one for board games growing up. I would consistently pick playing with Barbie by myself or reading a book over interacting with my peers. Two younger brothers meant that I rarely had to share, and as the oldest, I often called the shots.
School was not much better. Nothing made me squirm more than a group project. I would pout, shun my partner, and quickly take over the task when a teacher asked me to pair up. I was always of the mindset that others were not going to be as accurate, detailed, or fast as me. You want something done right? Do it yourself! (Are you sensing that I might be a bit of a control freak? Have you ever heard of a Type-A SLP? Never!)
I found in college that most professors really do not care who does the work. They do not want to hear about your martyrdom or listen to you complain about inattentive teammates who talk about weekend plans while you work. Professors are not impressed that you did a whole project alone; they think you are acting like a selfish baby if you grumble about it. I had passive-aggressive thoughts when I came to this realization such as, “Well, I will only do my third of the project, and everyone else better get with it!" This did not go over well because it tends to cause angry, festering feelings among colleagues.
I consistently learned about collaboration as an SLP. Interacting with other SLPs, audiologists, families, school and hospital professionals, patients, and a boatload of other people was about to become a part of my everyday life. Imagine the horror I experienced. Teamwork? Every day?
That is when I realized I needed to put on my big girl shoes and get over it. I am by no means perfect, as it turns out. I do not have an endless supply of creativity, energy, ideas, and I am not an island. Working as a single person and isolating myself as a professional is exhausting. I started actively telling my supervisors that collaboration is a clinical goal of mine, and while I am still learning and growing as a teammate, I have found that the load is a lot lighter when you realize your peers and colleagues have the same goals as you. Your colleagues have great ideas, I promise! Not everyone is a high school student trying to get out of doing work. Patients will get the most optimal services if you talk to the other people working with them.
So if you are a control freak working on becoming a healthcare professional, take a step back and ask: how are my collaborative skills? What are some steps I can take to improve? Your patients’ welfare is the highest priority, so if you read this and recognize yourself, maybe it is time to make a change.