Imagine a world where every member of the healthcare team knows without a doubt that his or her contributions to the work are recognized, respected, and deeply valued. In this ideal world, staff are engaged, team members actively support one another, and turnover is minimal. Patients sense the camaraderie and derive clinical benefits from being cared for by a highly functional team. Is this world attainable? In my humble opinion, the answer is a resounding yes ... with the caveat that it won't happen without both significant intention and ongoing commitment.
Volumes have been written about teams and teamwork, but what's the secret sauce that really brings a group together? Have you ever experienced a work setting that had fabulous individual nurses, doctors, and other health team members, but no real harmony within the team and group dynamics that were far from optimal? Traditional professional education and departmental leadership models haven't helped improve this situation. Although times are changing, many clinical initiatives still tend to be discipline-specific and framed in silos. Often, little attention is paid to optimizing how the team functions together to achieve the best possible outcomes. Quite simply, we need to learn how to best work with one another in a way that's mutually supportive and engaging.
Interprofessional competence is the cornerstone of true collaborative practice. Founded on shared values and mutual respect, it's a skill that must be intentionally sought in new hires, developed in all levels of staff, and honed within our healthcare teams. No one is exempt. Although leadership is critical, those on the frontlines must buy into establishing this expectation as a cultural norm and fully realize that far more can be achieved by working together than by working alone.
Because everyone on a team contributes to the outcomes, ongoing and dedicated efforts to create and maintain excellent relationships are essential. That takes a willingness to learn about and appreciate the special skills and abilities of each person. Interprofessional education can help by having people from different disciplines interact and learn together.
What does success look like? Coworkers care about the well-being of one another and often have a sense of “family.” Of course, as in any work setting, challenges will arise. However, when relationships are built on solid ground, the team can weather almost any storm.
Until next time,
Linda Laskowski-Jones, MS, APRN, ACNS-BC, CEN, FAWM, FAAN
Editor-in-Chief, Nursing2018 Vice President: Emergency & Trauma Services Christiana Care Health System, Wilmington, Del.