Teamwork is an essential part of the nursing profession and is vital to effective patient care. Nurses must establish a connection with not only their fellow nurses, but also other members of the care team, such as physicians, physical therapists, or social workers.
Some of the characteristics of successful healthcare teams include:
Establishing common goals and purposes
Having clear roles for each person that can be flexible when they need to be
Understanding how everyone’s responsibilities fit together
Giving the right people a voice in decision making
Helping each other
Examining and adjusting performance on a regular basis
Giving each other individual and team feedback
Collaborating on effective patient care
All of these elements require communication. Providing nurses and other members of the care team with modern nursing communication tools can lead to improvements for patients, staff, and the entire healthcare organization.
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What Are the Barriers to Effective Nursing Teamwork?
1. Insufficient Leadership or Organization
Ineffective nursing teams amount to a simple assortment of individuals who are each working towards their own purposes. In a true team, members look out for one another, help each other out, and successfully deal with problems as they arise. Creating an effective organizational structure can help the team operate at its best.
One of the places where organizations often fail is in dealing with patient handoffs during shift changes. In most healthcare facilities, a rotating selection of nursing staff will help oversee each patient’s needs. Information needs to be communicated effectively during handoffs in order to make sure each care provider understands the patient’s needs and to keep workflows running smoothly.
When handoffs aren’t performed effectively, serious or even fatal errors can occur. In fact, 70% of all serious medical errors that involve death or major injury are caused by communication problems.
Nurses often have very little time available for shift change handovers, and the time they do have is not always utilized well. One study found that interruptions took up 16% of the time that nurses used for handoffs. Providing teams with specific checklists can help reduce errors during shift changes. Additionally, modern communications tools can help nurses exchange patient information accurately quickly — even automatically during shift changes.
2. Difficulties Communicating with Other Care Team Members
Patient care has become increasingly complex as healthcare organizations strive to meet the full spectrum of patient needs. As the population ages, patients are more likely to have multiple chronic conditions, meaning that they need several care team members with different types of expertise. Patients no longer receive care from a single provider, but rather a multidisciplinary team.
This can be challenging for healthcare workers to navigate. Many individuals have undergone specialized training to prepare them for their own roles, but they have not had experience with interprofessional training as a group. Additionally, people within each type of role have likely learned to communicate using different styles and methods. Different professions can also get stuck in a silo mentality, where they are less likely to listen to people from other specialties.
Effective patient care involves bringing together people with skills and expertise in multiple areas and giving them the tools they need in order to communicate with each other effectively and solve problems together. Modern tools can lead to better healthcare collaboration. For example, mobile systems can provide nurses with easy access to other providers on a patient’s care team. Offering more open channels of communication can make patient care more efficient.
3. Outdated Technology
Many healthcare organizations are still using outdated tools such as pagers and fax machines in order to complete day-to-day tasks. When care teams switch to more efficient mobile technology like smartphones, they can be more productive while lowering costs.
In an analysis of one teaching hospital, researchers found that physicians and nurses spent hours per day trying to track down colleagues using paging systems. This led to a monthly loss of over $17,000 in productivity costs. Most healthcare workers are already familiar with smartphones and texting, and they can easily incorporate more modern nursing clinical communication solutions into their practice.
4. Unclear Roles and Responsibilities
Low-functioning teams may not operate efficiently because members aren’t clear on what responsibilities other team members have. Effective nursing collaboration occurs when coworkers understand everyone’s roles and abilities and trust each other to carry out their own tasks. Nursing teams also provide optimal patient care when the workload is being distributed evenly and everyone is clear on who is responsible for what. Creating clear roles and workflows enables each person to take charge of their own individual tasks.
Establishing team trust also comes as a result of everyone following the same protocols and understanding what every aspect of patient care should look like. For example, when ICU staff in one study were all trained on the same intervention for mechanically ventilated patients, patient outcomes improved, with days on ventilation decreasing from 6 to 4 days. Organizations can use technology like Rapid Response Team alerts to notify entire teams of care workers when a certain protocol needs to be activated.
5. Hard-to-Access Information
Spending time trying to track down lab results and find patient notes can lead to delays in patient care. Integrating communication systems with EHRs allows for the complete patient record to be easily available all in one place, giving nurses and other healthcare providers better access to life-saving data. Real-time updates and notifications can be crucial for monitoring and responding to patients’ current conditions. Studies have shown that using EHR systems can boost productivity.
Improved Teamwork Leads to Better Patient Care
Teamwork can directly lead to better patient outcomes. For example, in a study of ICUs, units with lower-than-predicted mortality rates were more likely to have staff that reported working together as a team. Better teamwork is associated with:
Higher levels of patient safety
Shorter stays in care facilities
Greater patient trust in providers and lower patient stress levels
Not only does better nursing teamwork lead to better quality of care within healthcare facilities, it also gives nurses more confidence that patients can manage their own care once they go home.
Better Communication Helps Healthcare Organizations
When organizations can rely on high-function teams, they see better outcomes for everyone. For example, improvements in teamwork can result in lower complication rates, reduced costs, and better performance by nurses, physicians, and other staff.
When nurses operate as a well-oiled machine, they can also be more productive and provide better support for each other. A survey of over 10,000 nurses found that those who displayed higher levels of teamwork were also:
More satisfied with their jobs
More likely to plan to stay with their current position
Less likely to feel burnt out
More likely to feel confident in acting autonomously
More likely to participate in decision making
In organizations with a culture that emphasizes teamwork, patients are also much more likely to report that they are satisfied with the care that they receive. This has become especially important in recent years, given that Medicare reimbursement rates have been tied to patient satisfaction scores. Promoting a team-building culture and giving care workers the nursing communication technology they need to collaborate effectively can help the organization’s bottom line.
When healthcare facilities emphasize nursing communication and teamwork, everybody wins. TigerConnect can provide the tools your organization needs in order to operate at its best. Request a free demo today.
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