From a young age, we are all taught how to work as a team. Effective teamwork benefits everyone. From promoting better problem-solving skills and providing opportunities for growth and development, to creating a shared sense of purpose leading to more innovative ideas. As our lives get busier and our individual roles become increasingly demanding, the benefits of teamwork and collaboration can often be overlooked, but the good news is – they don’t have to be!
Taking a collaborative approach to healthcare means that healthcare professionals assume a shared responsibility for patient care. This can range from simple data-sharing at a shift swap, to meeting with other professionals to diagnose, treat, and coordinate ongoing care for a patient. Rather than each medical professional being a singular identity involved in only one facet of care, everyone involved would be interconnected; doctors, nurses, pharmacists, social workers, and more.
Collaboration can open doors to new opportunities and knowledge, whether the collaboration is a full-blown merge or a fleeting encounter. This is often referred to as collaborative advantage.
Individual healthcare workers can foster collaboration in several ways. In fact, you may already take on a collaborative role without realizing it. Nurses, for example, are often the primary point of contact between patients and doctors, having direct contact with patients and their families or carers.
Anyone in an advanced nursing role has experienced collaboration at some point. Obtaining and tracking accurate and relevant information for colleagues and other care providers, advocating for patients with other healthcare professionals, and assisting doctors and surgeons can all fall under the umbrella of collaboration.
Instead of focusing only on your job, think of yourself as part of a team. If your patient has other professionals involved in their care, communicate openly with them, sharing your assessments and encouraging them to share theirs- of course, while continuing to abide by any rules and regulations regarding confidentiality.
The short answer: Yes!
One of the positive outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the collaborative efforts of healthcare workers throughout the U.S. and the wider world. But collaboration is not only useful in a crisis. Decades worth of experience and research shows that collaborative healthcare has all kinds of benefits.
This research dates back to 1997 when five hospitals came together in an attempt to improve the care and outcome of patients with cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death at the time. The study grew tenfold, eventually including over 50 hospitals. These hospitals shared details of technology, treatment, complications and more. The level of transparency allowed providers to identify gaps in knowledge and learn from the practices of the other hospitals. The outcome? Improved patient care, reduced complications from the disease and readmissions, reduced costs of care, and fewer deaths!
This success story inspired dozens of other collaborative quality initiatives (CQIs), and the results have been awe-inspiring: thousands of patients have avoided complications, unnecessary treatments, and even death.
As you can see, remarkable things happen when multiple entities come together to work as a team. It results in the elusive win-win situation: patients win by avoiding unnecessary or risky treatments, they save on healthcare costs, enjoy an easier time navigating the often complicated and overwhelming healthcare system, and most of all, are more likely to experience favorable health outcomes. Healthcare professionals gain mutual respect for each other and the roles they play in patient care, they can learn and innovate through access to shared resources and inter-organizational partnerships, and derive an important sense of community and camaraderie.
A collaborative workplace is a happier workplace, according to a recent study. A collaborative work environment results in employees who are more confident, have fewer conflicts, have more innovative ideas, and have fewer instances of work-related burnout. Collaboration reduces workload, and in turn, it increases job satisfaction.
Additionally, open communication and teamwork between healthcare workers helps to strengthen workplace relationships – making teamwork and problem-solving all the more easy to achieve.
Healthcare workers all share the same goal: for the patient to receive adequate care at a reasonable cost and to leave as happy, stable, and satisfied as they can reasonably be. Working together can reduce errors, inefficiencies, and even deaths. Looking at healthcare through a lens of interprofessional collaboration rather than only looking at one aspect of a multifaceted situation means seeing the patient as a whole. Instead of considering only your area of expertise, you consider other aspects of the patient’s care and treatment, taking a more holistic approach.
Embracing your professional identity as part of a team and a system means that you see the wider picture. And seeing the entire picture allows you to make decisions that benefit the patient as a whole.
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