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How Nurses Today Communicate and Collaborate With Interdisciplinary Teams and How This Supports Safer and More Effective Patient Outcomes

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In contemporary healthcare settings, it is rare for patients to be under the care of only one provider. Instead, an interdisciplinary team of healthcare professionals delivers patient care, and nurses must have the necessary preparation and skills to work as part of a team. An RN to BSN program prepares nurses to be participants in the delivery and management of patient care. Patient care today is more complicated than ever due to an increasingly large aging population that has one or more chronic conditions such as diabetes, cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer's or kidney disease. Because these illnesses are complex, there is a need for specialized care, which has resulted in a multidisciplinary approach to treating patients.

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To provide proper care and improve patient outcomes, today’s nurses must collaborate effectively with members of the healthcare team from other disciplines. That means working together as team members and team leaders. To do that, they must understand each member’s education, scope of practice, and areas of expertise

Learning the language, norms, and special foci of other disciplines fosters more effective use of resources and knowledge, six healthcare education associations in the United States established the Interprofessional Education Collaborative: American Association of Colleges of Nursing, American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, American Dental Education Association, Association of American Medical Colleges, and Association of Schools of Public Health. Together, these organizations have worked to define interprofessional collaboration and four core competencies: 1) values and ethics for interprofessional practice, 2) roles and responsibilities for collaborative practice, 3) interprofessional communication practices, and 4) interprofessional teamwork. To sum up these competency domains, embracing the values and ethics of interprofessional practice means working together while respecting the expertise of those in other disciplines. Being aware of the professional roles and responsibilities of other team members; communicating effectively with patients, families, and other healthcare professionals; and building relationships to plan, implement, and evaluate safe care all contribute to the health of patients and communities. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing has integrated these collaborative expectations into its “essentials” for baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral education for advanced practice, and they are also included in the educational expectations of other healthcare disciplines. In 2010, the World Health Organization issued a statement of support for interprofessional education—emphasizing that, to strengthen global healthcare, students must learn with, from, and about members of other health professions. In 2016, further revisions by the Interprofessional Education Collaborative established interprofessional collaboration as an overall focus of the four competencies and called for increased emphasis on population health.Working with the school system offered, in turn, new opportunities to collaborate with others, both within and outside the healthcare system. An eight-week program by nursing, physical education, and exercise science faculty for second-grade children that involved undergraduate students, school administrators, nurses, physical education teachers, classroom teachers, and parents expanded to include collaborative partnerships with 10 community organizations that work together to improve child health in an urban community. By involving undergraduate students in our interprofessional project to improve patient health outcomes, we model interprofessional collaboration. Having a common focus enables multiple disciplines to combine their expertise.

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Teamwork became an important health intervention for a number of reasons. First, clinical care is becoming more complex and specialized, forcing medical staffs to attempt complicated health services and quickly learn new methods. Aging populations, the increase of chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease have forced medical staffs to take a multidisciplinary approach to health care. In countries like the United States, medical teams must manage patients suffering from multiple health problems (Salas E et al. 1992). Other countries are also concerned with increasing access to health care for diverse populations. In Brazil, health teams train to intimately understand the needs of patients, but also of local communities and different cultures. Secondly, researchers have found that working together reduces the number of medical errors and increases patient safety.Teamwork also reduces issues that lead to burnout. No longer is one person responsible for the patient’s health; today, an entire team of health workers comes together to coordinate a patient’s well-being. Health teams help break down hierarchy and centralized power of health organizations, giving more leverage to health workers (Manser, T. 2009)

Third, because teamwork is centered on solid communication, patients and their families sometimes feel more at ease and report they accept treatments and feel more satisfied with their health care. Health workers are also found to be more satisfied with their work. A study found nurses who go through successful team building efforts are more satisfied with their work. As the name implies, teamwork in health care employs the practices of collaboration and enhanced communication to expand the traditional roles of health workers and to make decisions as a unit that works toward a common goal. The Canadian Health Services Research Foundation found that teams function better when they have a clear purpose and implement protocols and procedures. Also important is the use of meetings and other communication methods to discuss patient results, share information, and debate suggestions to improve performance. Teamwork and collaboration are especially essential to care of patients in a decentralized health system with many levels of health workers.

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Definitely, effective clinical practice must not focus only on technological system issues, but also on the human factor. As shown in this chapter,good communication encourages collaboration and helps prevent errors. It is important for health care organizations to assess possible setups for poor communication and be diligent about offering programs and outlets to help foster team collaboration

By addressing this issue, health care organizations have an opportunity to greatly enhance their clinical outcomes.

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Salas E et al. "Toward an understanding of team performance and training." In: Sweeney RW, Salas E, eds. Teams: their training and performance. Norwood, NJ, Ablex, 1992.

Pinto, Rogério M., Melanie Wall, Gary Yu, Cláudia Penido, and Clecy Schmidt. "Primary care and public health services integration in Brazil’s unified health system." American journal of public health 102, no. 11 (2012): e69-e76.

Manser, T. "Teamwork and patient safety in dynamic domains of healthcare: a review of the literature." Acta Anaesthesiologica Scandinavica 53, no. 2 (2009): 143-151.

Canadian Health Services Research Foundation. "Teamwork in healthcare: promoting effective teamwork in healthcare in Canada. Policy synthesis and recommendations." In Teamwork in healthcare: promoting effective teamwork in healthcare in Canada. Policy synthesis and recommendations. CHSRF, 2006.

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