Everyone who works in the healthcare industry needs to be able to work alone and take personal responsibility at times, but being an effective part of a team is also crucial. Why does this matter, and what are the skills that allow nurses and other healthcare professionals to work together?
The Importance of Working in a Team – Helping the Patients
To start with, we need to understand why teamwork is important. The first and most important point here is the higher level of service and help that this means for the patients. A single healthcare worker can’t expect to be able to look after a patient’s complex needs on their own, so they need to form part of an overall team effort.
Everyone in the team adds their own skills and knowledge, from nurses to administrators, surgeons, and everyone else who is needed to look after the patient at different stages and in different ways. The teamwork aspect also means that it’s possible to provide cohesive and coherent communication to the patient’s family and also to complete the paperwork and every other part of the process.
We should also bear in mind that the same patient could be attended to by many different members of staff at different times of the day and night. The people who work on alternative shifts need to be able to communicate with one another and rely on their colleagues to maintain the same high standards that they hold – otherwise, the work they do during their shift could be undone by the next shift.
It’s easy to imagine the problems that could occur with poor teamwork or if the people who make up the team simply don’t communicate with each other. This would almost certainly lead to appointments being missed, the wrong medication being given, families not being informed of the latest progress, and numerous other issues that could result in major problems.
A patient will also feel reassured when they see a team working in harmony to help them. It is hugely frustrating for anyone to feel that their health could be put at risk because of a lack of communication between medical staff, and this is something that patients are more likely to spot than you might think.
The Importance of Working in a Team – Career Benefits
It isn’t just the patient who benefits when the team looking after them works together well. We all tend to feel happier and more satisfied in our roles when we know that we’re part of a strong team – otherwise, it can feel like a case of battling against the odds to do everything on our own.
Healthcare jobs are tough and can also be stressful, with long hours and difficult decisions to be made at times. When we know that we can rely on others to add their expertise and help reach a good decision, it lowers our stress levels, and this can ultimately lead to a longer and most satisfying career. There’s no need to do it all alone and take on all of the weight of making decisions and then carrying them out.
This can also give us a sensible way to view our career progression opportunities, as working in a team lets us see what other roles are like and whether we would be suited to them. If everyone works on their own without any sort of communication, then the rest of the healthcare industry could be a complete mystery even to someone working in it.
It’s worth remembering that working as part of a strong team doesn’t reduce the personal accountability needed in a healthcare role. It’s generally the opposite, as studies show that nurses who work in a team tend to show more responsibility for the tasks that fall to them. This is more of a question of knowing what you are responsible for and what isn’t part of your role.
Bearing all of this in mind, it’s clear that working as part of a team is as good for the healthcare professional as it is for their patients. So, why is it the case that this isn’t always possible? What elements need to be put in place but are sometimes lacking for a healthcare team to work together?
How to Get Better Teamwork in Healthcare
Like many aspects of work culture, the concept of working in a team ideally has to come from above. While individual nurses and team members can certainly attempt to work together on an ad-hoc basis, it’s incredibly difficult to do this without the support that comes from a coordinated approach led by the management and that’s encouraged across the whole team.
This is something that the management team should view as essential, for the reasons that we’ve looked at and also because committed team members are more likely to stay for longer and provide a high level of performance, reducing the level of staff turnover and other issues. This means that it’s in their interests to encourage teamwork as much as possible, and they might also use employee experience management software to track each worker’s progress.
A team needs to have shared goals, and the members also need to share the same ethical approach. This can be done by creating team-building sessions or by having a mission statement or value proposition that sums up what is most important to the organization. Approaching it in this way means that everyone understands why teamwork is important.
The management team also needs to look at how each member of staff fits into the team in the best way possible, taking into account the fact that this effort is required to give their patients a better overall experience. Someone may be contributing less than they should be simply because they’re in the wrong role or being asked to do something that would be more suitable for a colleague with different skills.
This is one of the reasons why the American Nurses Association recommends the use of patient-focused teams that have the right mixture of experience and skills to provide suitable solutions. Putting this sort of team together can be time-consuming, but it’s definitely worth the effort, and in some cases, the group may stay together for a long time once established.
What skills are Needed?
Working in a team is partly a matter of adopting the right frame of mind, but it can’t be carried out well without having the right skills. Everyone who is part of the team needs to understand the role that they have and carry it out well. This means that training is a crucial part of the process of implementing a teamwork focus.
Without the right skills and an understanding of the role, it’s impossible to be an effective team member who carries out their own role well and also sees the bigger picture. Undertaking an online MSN or DUP training program run by a CCNE accredited body, such as Walsh university, is a powerful way to move in the right direction, with online courses making this a more convenient process than in the past.
Gaining the skills needed to perform a healthcare role to a high standard is an excellent career move for the same reason, as it allows you to fit seamlessly into any professional healthcare team in the future. This opens up new possibilities for the future, as you can show prospective employers that you’ve got the right qualification to fit into any healthcare team.
What Else do Team Members Need?
Interpersonal skills – or soft skills – are also vital for team members to work together well. These are the skills that let you work smoothly with your colleagues without stepping on anyone’s toes. Ideally, everyone will have clearly defined roles that allow them to perform their tasks without any worries about whether they or someone else should be doing them.
However, there are always going to be situations in which they need to get in touch with other team members, and this is where a high level of respect and understanding is required. Every member of the team needs to value the work done by their colleagues and the skills that they bring to the team, and no one should feel that their role is more important than anyone else’s.
By carrying this same idea of respect through to each interaction, the team can look to build up a strong bond of trust that allows them to work to a higher standard than would otherwise be the case.
Perhaps the most important point of all is the desire to be part of a useful, efficient team that solves problems and helps people get better. Feeling part of a team and understanding that this is the best way to use your skills is a great starting point, but you need to get the right skills to make the most of this positive attitude.