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How to Promote Teamwork in Healthcare

Oct 3, 2023

For any team to succeed, each of its members should understand, support, and work with each other. A basketball team could never hope to win a game if its members play without any thought for the rest of their team. A film won’t release to critical praise if its makers don’t share the same vision. Perhaps more importantly, hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare environments may suffer if their providers don’t work well together.

A crucial aspect of healthcare is the ability of nurses, doctors, and other staff to operate as a tightly knit team. Since the stakes are high when patient lives are on the line, proper teamwork should be heavily promoted and sought-after in the workplace.

But just how important is teamwork in healthcare, and what exactly can healthcare professionals do to become better teammates? Read on to learn strategies to achieve and maintain a positive healthcare work environment that can benefit both providers and patients.

Understanding the Importance of Teamwork in Healthcare

Whether individuals are admitted to the hospital for an emergency or simply visit with a primary care doctor, they expect healthcare providers to administer proper care. Patients need nurses who understand their concerns, doctors who know how to treat illness and injury, and other staff members like receptionists who can lend a listening ear. That’s why it’s so important for these professionals to nurture an environment of expert teamwork, patience, and collaboration.

Teamwork not only benefits patients and their recovery, but it also strengthens ties between healthcare workers and increases their proficiency in every aspect of their jobs. A healthcare center can thrive only when its team members actively communicate, listen to, and aid one another. Otherwise, any number of mistakes may happen.

So why is teamwork important?

Teamwork Creates a Better Work Environment for Healthcare Workers

An ideal work environment means many things. It means that employees find fulfillment as they execute their duties. It means that rules are followed. It means that workers and patients are safe from harm. A good work environment is reflective of effective management, mutual respect, and well-implemented policies. Healthcare providers functioning as part of a coordinated team more often than not enjoy a positive, united, and enriching workplace.

High-level cooperation and teamwork among physicians, nurses, assistants, pharmacists, and technicians can grant the following workplace benefits:

  • Increased job satisfaction
  • Improved morale
  • More meaningful professional connection
  • More networking opportunities
  • Better conflict resolution
  • Clearer-defined job roles
  • Increased collaboration
  • Improved health outcomes for patients

In addition to these group benefits, healthcare employees can’t perform their individual jobs to the fullest unless they engage with other team members. For example, family nurse practitioners (FNPs) can’t fill patient prescriptions without first communicating with patients’ preferred pharmacies. Likewise, registered nurses (RNs) won’t be able to measure patient vitals without technicians first testing medical equipment for faults or errors.

Teamwork Improves Patient Experiences and Outcomes

The primary goal for all healthcare workers is to serve their patients. Whether it’s treating life-threatening conditions, administering standard checkups, or answering questions, providers have their hands full when serving patients. It follows, then, that they perform these responsibilities better when they work as a team.

Nurses consult with doctors to determine the best patient treatment plans. Doctors brief with scheduling assistants to set up optimal patient appointment times. And physicians of all kinds collaborate to understand how to correctly diagnose patients. Each member of a healthcare team works in their own way to improve patient experiences and recovery outcomes.

But there’s more to it than that. Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare staff collaborate to ensure that patients remain safe and comfortable while receiving care. Additionally, primary care providers may need to refer patients to specialists for proper treatment. Such referrals sometimes require primary care professionals to reach out to specialists before handing patients off to them.

Put simply, patients cannot walk the road toward recovery without a willing, caring team of healthcare workers to guide them there.

Fostering a Positive Teamwork Environment

You might be wondering how you could better foster a teamwork-oriented healthcare environment. Whether you’re aspiring to become a healthcare provider or you already serve as one (and whether you’re in a leadership role or not), there are many ways you can promote an atmosphere of respect and dialogue. From practicing open and honest communication to sharing insights and goals, you can help realize the perfect team of healthcare professionals.

What are some of the best ways to create a workplace where teamwork can flourish?

Recognize the Value of Each Individual Team Member

A successful team member or leader never discounts the unique value that each individual brings to the table. Promoting teamwork should allow for multiple opinions to be heard and viewpoints to be considered in a respectful manner. In the case of a demanding, high-stress industry like healthcare, this may require that members exhibit emotional intelligence, which means approaching professional relationships with empathy and self-awareness. Practicing emotional intelligence can lead to gaining more trust from coworkers.

It's especially important for leaders and others in management roles to see the value in those they work with and express appreciation for their contributions. For example, a hospital administrator might take a couple of minutes out of his busy routine to personally thank a diligent team of physical therapists.

It may also prove beneficial for healthcare teams to set goals or make plans related to team-building exercises. Those in leadership positions might consider instituting programs or training on teamwork or emotional intelligence to help employees succeed.

Communicate Openly and Listen Actively to Coworkers

Working as a team means that members convene often in group or one-on-one settings. This might include formal meetings, informal conversations, or digital correspondence. Whatever the environment, healthcare workers should try to create safe spaces for discussion. They should communicate openly, listen to understand, and be tolerant toward others. Team members should also incorporate best practices when resolving conflicts at work.

Good communication and active listening have even more important implications when it comes to workplace and patient safety. Healthcare providers who have a direct influence on a patient’s well-being must listen to instructions carefully and communicate clearly. Miscommunication or outright failure to communicate can lead to office or operating room hazards and even preventable patient harm.

Promote a Shared Goal

In addition to proper communication, healthcare teams and individuals can promote and work toward achieving a shared goal. When a team creates such a goal, they can more easily attain it because each member understands what they’re striving for and can help one another in the process. Shared goals naturally encourage cooperation as team members apply their learned knowledge and showcase their unique skill sets.

 Shared goals for healthcare teams should follow the “SMART” criteria for the best actionable results:

  •  Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time bound

Next Steps

As you prepare for a career in healthcare, consider WGU for a bachelor’s or master’s program that can grant you the industry-relevant skills you need. WGU offers accredited, online* nursing and healthcare programs that let you study on your schedule, with no set log-in times for courses. You can also earn several post-master’s certificates in nursing to gain specialized knowledge in your chosen field.

WGU’s competency-based education model allows you to progress through courses as quickly as you master the material, potentially saving time and money. Get started today and learn what it takes to work as part of a skilled, dynamic healthcare team.

*WGU nursing programs include in-person clinical rotations.

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