A Fifth Question for Creating the Ideal Healthcare Organization: Teamwork

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We earlier created a list of ten questions that all healthcare workers and users can use to help create the ideal healthcare organization.  All of us can use questions as a technique to educate and improve ourselves, others, and the organization.

The fifth question on our list is, “Are we all working as a team to meet patient needs?”  Teamwork has been increasingly recognized as a requirement for success in organizations.  In healthcare, with its abundance of actors and interactions, it is critical to patient outcomes.

Perhaps the quintessential example of teamwork in healthcare would be the operating room.  OR team surgeryFailure to work as a team in this situation clearly can mean disaster.

Yet when the patient is back in the ward, teamwork is equally important among doctor, nurse, food service worker, chaplain, etc.  And of course the patient is part of that team.  (Wouldn’t it be nice if each patient were given a list of all such team members and how to contact them?)

In addition, there must be teamwork among the various units of the organization. This an important distinguishing mark of the “ideal” organization, whereas rivalry is a characteristic of “non-ideal”. Ultimately, every member of the organization is part of a team of the whole. Moreover, the healthcare institution itself needs to be in a “teamwork” relation with the community.

Everyone in the organization is responsible for ensuring teamwork and for keeping this question active.  Organizational leaders must constantly test for this attribute and need to provide ongoing training and learning opportunities on teamwork.  Practices such as discussion groups, medical improv, and medical simulation can encourage this skill.  The personnel selection system, rewards and incentives, and organizational communication all have to reflect the organization’s “team spirit”.

Unit managers have to promote teamwork among those they supervise; democratic, team-based management is the way to do that.  As noted, they also need to guard against the view that other units are competitors rather than allies; regular meetings with “outsiders” will help foster this objective.

Doctors, nurses, therapists and other independent contributors should observe and ask whether teamwork is being practiced well.  Defusing potential conflict situations, reaching out to others, and self-monitoring against self-centeredness are among the many ways that everyone can do this.

The ideal healthcare organization will help patients to understand and perform their role as a team member.  As we’ve noted here, patient information is a crucial part of this process. And of course it patients observe staff in conflict, that undermines the concept of everyone being on a team.

Perhaps you have an example of teamwork in the healthcare environment? We would love to hear from you!

jim murphyJim Murphy has a solo consulting practice called Management 3000, focusing on organizational development and change management. Being semi-retired, Jim is willing to provide very reasonably priced consulting, coaching or  project work for organizations aspiring to improvement in organizational culture, effectiveness and employee engagement.

Formerly he led the Massachusetts Bay Organizational Development Learning Group, was Human Resources Director for the City of Boston Assessing Department, and served as a consultant with the Boston Management Consortium.  His consulting practice includes management coaching as well as research and writing on employee relationships, leadership, healthcare and collaborative practices.  Having produced newsletters for several organizations  and being a frequent content writer for the”Confident Voices in Healthcare” blog, he is interested in writing and research opportunities, as well as consulting and coaching.

www.manage2001.com or email  jim@manage2001.com

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3 Responses to A Fifth Question for Creating the Ideal Healthcare Organization: Teamwork

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  3. Beth_Boynton_RN_MS says:

    Thanks for bringing the concept of teamwork front and center, Jim. And optimal collaboration and is essential for best outcomes. There are challenges in healthcare that call for creative application of team-building principles, differences in education, constantly changing teams and team membership, 24/7/365 work, and unrelenting stress. We need to pay attention to promoting conflict management, including team development awareness into scheduling and assigning staff, and effective development of interpersonal and communication skills. All the “soft” or “people” skills we talk about in OD. Tough to build but so important.

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