Multidisciplinary Collaboration in Health Care

February 4th, 2015 by

Health Care Team The physician writes the orders that are put into action by the nurse, the therapist, the sonographer and the patient care assistant. How do all these individuals work together to provide a positive outcome in patient care?

The son of a friend of mine was just recently in the hospital for RSV/asthma complications. On one particular night, he never seemed to get relief between treatments and his sats were hovering around 90%.

She texted me to ask me if she was “freaking out for no reason” or if something needed to be done, because “the nurse didn’t seem bothered by it” and “the respiratory therapist took 2 hours to get here last time!”

It’s not uncommon for me, as a nurse, to hear complaints about care from all disciplines: “The Doctor has a horrible bedside manner!” “The physical therapist only spent about 10 minutes with me and I had to tell her which knee was replaced!” “The aide said she gave me a bath yesterday and said she didn’t have time to give me one today.”

None of these examples are about nursing, but that isn’t to say they don’t exist. I hear those too. I could give you a list a mile long of complaints people have about their nursing care.

Anyone who works in health care is fair game as far as problems go. People hear that you are somehow associated and gladly report the mistreatment they suffered at the hands of “your kind” of people.

I get it though, and I do think that it’s a poor reflection on any discipline when someone has a bad experience in health care. “The nurse was great, but the lady that took my blood- she was rude!” or “I really loved the physical therapist on that unit, but I hope I never have to see those nurses again.”

The problem isn’t that we don’t know we need collaboration, it’s how to to achieve it.

From the top surgeon to the patient care assistants, all the people involved in the health and well- being of patients are members of a team. Making sure that patients are well cared for is the responsibility of all. I don’t think anyone would argue that the outcome of collaboration is effective, but the problem most organizations have is in trying to achieve it.

Gardner writes:  “…contextual elements that influence the formation of collaboration include time, status, organizational values, collaborating participants, and type of problem.”

So what is the nurse’s role as a member of a multi-faceted health care team? Their role, in theory, is to do exactly what they were trained to do in nursing school. But here’s what you really can’t write a scholarly article about:  nurses who are considerate to other team members have better collaborative experience.

A professor in nursing school told us that there was one major thing that would keep us out of a lawsuit, even if we really truly messed up. “BE. NICE.” she said emphatically. “People won’t usually sue someone that they liked or who was nice to them.” Patient care aside, I think this advice applies to each individual who is a member of a health care team.

Each person needs to take responsibility to help another. Say you have a team member you find hiding in an empty patient room watching tv, when you’ve been trying to get in contact with them for the last 30 minutes. Instead of assuming that they are lazy and ridiculous (they very well may be) speak to them as though they want to do the job and help people.

Address each person’s best self, so to speak. Words and actions are powerful and if you model a good work ethic and act as if everyone else is at the same level, people will rise to it. There’s no reason to talk down about your co-workers to patients either. This not only reduces their trust in the person you were talking about, it reduces their trust in the system and in you!

The biggest factor in an effective collaboration is YOU!

You, the nurse, are not in control of managing anyone else’s time, efficiency or problems with hierarchy. You are, however, in control of how you respond to all these things, and how you encourage others to respond. I would say this to any member of a health care team: “the biggest factor in encouraging collaboration between the disciplines is you and what you bring.”

There’s no CEU course or 10 step test to develop that in individuals, it just takes awareness and work. If you’ve ever been a part of a fully functional and happy working group, you know that it makes all the difference.

About the Author:

Sarah Heroman

Sarah Heroman is an RN, BSN who has found her niche as a school nurse in Texas. With almost 20 years of experience, Sarah is still passionate about the nursing field and enjoys mentoring and helping nurses continue to find the joy in their careers. She believes that a good nurse is able to combine the science and the art of nursing and find fulfillment in providing the best care for their patients.

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