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Enhancing patient care in nursing through collaboration and teamwork

patient care

Good health is unarguably one of the most valuable assets that any individual or community can possess. A healthy individual and population help to move the economy forward by contributing to the workforce and being efficient in their work. A healthy population also reduces the burden of natural phenomena such as old age, natural disasters, and death. 

Hence, keeping the population healthy is a priority for every stakeholder ranging from the government to industries and, very importantly, healthcare workers. Healthcare workers, particularly nurses, bear the burden of ensuring the best outcomes for their patients. In this article, we will explore how teamwork and collaboration help to achieve these outcomes and discuss tips for fostering collaboration and teamwork. 

What is collaboration in nursing?

Cambridge Dictionary defines collaboration as the situation of two or more people working together to create or achieve the same thing. In nursing, collaboration would therefore mean the process or situation of healthcare professionals working together to achieve the best outcomes for their patients. It involves every healthcare professional involved in the care of a patient – including nurses, physicians, therapists, pharmacists, cleaners, and health attendants – putting in their best effort to achieve the best possible outcome for patients.  

Holistic and comprehensive healthcare is impossible without collaboration. Patients present with different symptoms, and several economic, cultural, and even social factors work in the background to influence not just their manifestation of a disease but also their response to care. Hence, nurses collaborate to address the diverse needs of patients, promote effective communication, and ensure the continuity of care. Collaboration in nursing can occur at different levels, which include: 

  • Collaboration between the nurse and the patient 

The nurse and the patient must be in sync as to what is wrong and what needs to be addressed. Where the nurse and the patient are not working toward the same goal, there is bound to be a problem in patient outcomes. Hence, nurses must ensure that they listen to the patients to understand their needs and also communicate with the patients so they are up to date about their care. 

  • Collaboration between nurses and other healthcare professionals 

Another level of collaboration in nursing involves nurses and other healthcare professionals. It should be noted that this is often regarded as the most important form of collaboration. Nurses alone cannot successfully manage patient care even though they are a vital part of the process. Nurses, therefore, must collaborate with healthcare professionals involved in the diagnosis, care, and management of patients. 

  • Collaboration between the nurse and patient families

Patient families and friends are often wrongly overlooked in patient care and management. This group, however, also has a vital role to play in ensuring the best outcomes for patients. Patients’ relatives assist nurses with vital background information that can help them adjust their bedside manner appropriately. In a similar vein, they are responsible for post-discharge care, which means they more or less step into the role of the nurse outside the clinical setting. 

What is teamwork in nursing? 

Although teamwork and collaboration are often used interchangeably, teamwork is a slightly different form of cooperation from collaboration. The measurable outcome of both concepts is often the same, hence the confusion. However, teamwork, unlike collaboration, emphasizes individual contribution.

Teamwork emphasizes the individual contributions and coordinated actions of team members within a specific healthcare setting or unit. It focuses on leveraging the unique skills, knowledge, and expertise of each team member to achieve shared objectives. In nursing, teamwork involves nurses working together as a cohesive unit, recognizing and valuing the individual strengths and capabilities of each team member.

Unlike collaboration, which often involves a broader interdisciplinary approach, teamwork revolves around the internal workings and interactions of the nursing team. It emphasizes cooperation and effective communication within the team to ensure smooth workflow, task delegation, and seamless care delivery. Every member of the nursing team has a defined role, and teamwork means everyone doing their roles and complementing each other in the long run. Teamwork in nursing is particularly vital in fast-paced and high-stress environments such as emergency departments or intensive care units. Nurses share information, delegate responsibilities, and support one another to provide comprehensive and holistic care.

The benefits of collaboration and teamwork in nursin

Collaboration and teamwork play a crucial role in nursing and are essential for providing holistic, high-quality patient care. Here are some key reasons why it is crucial to adopt both in nursing practice:

  • Improved communication and information sharing

Collaboration and teamwork promote effective communication among healthcare professionals. Nurses work together, share information, and exchange ideas, ensuring that critical patient information is communicated accurately and efficiently. Good communication is important for patient outcomes, as patients want to know what is going on with their health and be allowed to participate in the decision-making process. 

  • Holistic and patient-centered care

Collaboration and teamwork allow for a holistic approach to patient care. Gone are the days when patient care was laser-focused, and nurses and other healthcare professionals could only pay attention to the immediate cause of concern. Now, the best practices for healthcare consider all the patients’ needs from different perspectives to ensure more accurate diagnosis and understanding of the problem, better planning, and improved outcomes for patients. 

  • Enhanced problem solving and informed decision making

Collaboration and teamwork enable nurses to pool their resources, skills, and experiences to make the best patient-care decisions. It also allows for effective problem-solving and identification of issues. When nurses work together both within their teams and with other teams, they can analyze issues properly and find the most effective solutions for their clients. The diverse perspective of every team member is necessary to achieve the best possible outcome for patients. 

  • Efficient resource utilization

One major benefit of collaboration and teamwork in nursing is that it allows for the optimal use of scarce resources. When everyone is in sync, the workflow is smoother, stress is reduced, and pressure is taken off principal members of the team. Also, nurses would be able to avoid the unfortunate situation of over-treating a patient or making rounds with a patient that has already been treated. Collaboration and teamwork also improve the strengths and weaknesses of every member of the team to ensure maximum output. 

  • Continuity of care

In healthcare, everyone has connected yet differentiated roles. The effect of this is that, most times, the role of one health professional stops where that of another professional starts. Collaboration and teamwork ensure that patients are not left hanging in the middle of their care, ensuring that patients can access the wholesome care that they need. The seamless transfer of information allows for consistent care provision, even when different nurses are involved in the patient’s journey. Collaboration and teamwork prevent gaps in patient care.    

  • Professional growth and development

Collaboration and teamwork contribute to the professional growth and development of nurses. Through collaboration, nurses learn from one another, share knowledge, and exchange best practices. This continuous learning fosters professional growth, expands skill sets, and enhances career advancement opportunities.

Collaboration and teamwork also foster a positive working environment that is necessary for professional advancement and career development for nurses and other healthcare professionals. 

  • Reduced errors and enhanced patient safety 

According to Tracey Bell et al., medication administration errors (MAEs) cause preventable patient harm and cost billions of dollars from already-strained healthcare budgets. An emerging factor contributing to these errors is nurse fatigue. Where nurses collaborate effectively and work together in a team, they avoid making avoidable errors such as administering the wrong dosage of medications and overtreating patients.

  • Increased patient satisfaction 

Collaboration and teamwork in nursing have a significant impact on patient satisfaction. When healthcare professionals work together cohesively and collaboratively, it positively influences the patient experience. 

Factors that can hinder effective collaboration and teamwork in nursing 

Internal and external factors can hinder the effectiveness of nurses and affect their ability to collaborate effectively. Recognizing these factors helps us implement policies in the healthcare sector that are crucial to foster a collaborative work environment. Here are some common factors that can hinder effective collaboration and teamwork in nursing:

  • Hierarchical structures

Hierarchical organizational structures can create barriers to effective collaboration. Organizations with more bureaucratic processes tend to leave very little room for collaboration and teamwork. Where there is a rigid hierarchy, communication and decision-making may become top-down, limiting the participation and input of people on the lower levels of patient management. This can lead to a lack of autonomy, reduced motivation, and less collaboration among team members.

  • Communication breakdown

Poor communication channels, lack of clarity in roles and responsibilities, and limited information sharing can result in misunderstandings, errors, and breakdowns in teamwork. Communication barriers can include language barriers, physical distance, or inadequate communication tools and technologies.

  • Limited interdisciplinary collaboration

Collaboration extends beyond the nursing team to include other healthcare professionals. However, barriers to interdisciplinary collaboration – such as professional hierarchies, differing priorities, inadequate communication between disciplines, and use of unnecessarily-technical terms – can hinder effective teamwork and collaboration. Also, isolated working practices can negatively affect interdisciplinary collaboration. 

  • Resistance to change

Resistance to change can negatively impact collaboration and teamwork efforts. Nurses may hesitate to adopt new practices or to collaborate with different healthcare professionals due to fear of the unknown, concerns about workload, or simply wanting to stay within their comfort zones.

  • Time constraints and workload pressures

Nursing work environments are often fast-paced and demanding, with high patient loads and limited time. Heavy workloads and time constraints can create barriers to collaboration and teamwork, as nurses may feel overwhelmed and only focus on completing their tasks at the appropriate time. When time is limited, there may be less opportunity for effective communication, collaboration, and shared decision-making.

  • Lack of trust and mutual respect

Trust and mutual respect are foundational for effective collaboration and teamwork. In environments where trust is lacking, collaboration suffers. Professional disagreements, lack of recognition for contributions, and a hostile work environment can erode trust and hinder effective teamwork. 

  • Inadequate training and education

Insufficient training and education of nurses and other healthcare practitioners on the art of collaboration and teamwork can impede their effectiveness. If healthcare professionals are not equipped with the necessary knowledge, skills, and understanding of collaborative practices, it can hinder their ability to work together effectively. 

Tips for maintaining collaboration and teamwork in patient care 

Knowing the importance of teamwork and collaboration in patient care, nurses must maintain teamwork and collaboration. Addressing the barriers to collaboration requires a multifaceted approach. Below are some tips to help nurses collaborate and work effectively:  

  • Promoting a culture of open communication and trust

Team leaders and healthcare administrators can promote teamwork and collaboration by promoting a culture of open communication and trust. This can be implemented by allowing for constructive feedback and criticism in the workplace. It can also be accomplished by providing effective communication structures and tools in the workplace.  

  • Encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration

Interdepartmental team meetings and team-bonding activities can help encourage collaboration and teamwork. These activities allow members of different teams to create a rapport that will help them work together effectively in the future. 

  • Effective hiring processes

When hiring, health administrators must ensure that they hire diverse team members. Diversity in healthcare can promote effective collaboration as team members utilize their strengths to benefit the whole team. Also, the more diverse a healthcare team is, the better the likelihood of connecting with patients, especially those with indigenous backgrounds. By embracing and promoting diversity, the healthcare system and dedicated educational institutions like Texas Woman’s University can better meet the needs of all patients and provide high-quality care to diverse populations.

  • Investing in professional development 

Better-trained professionals can work effectively across different teams. Investing in professional development by allowing room for healthcare team members to undergo advanced training and education will improve patient outcomes. 

Conclusion 

In conclusion, recognizing and addressing the barriers that hinder effective collaboration and teamwork in nursing is crucial for creating a healthcare environment that promotes optimal patient care. It enhances communication, improves care coordination, and improves patient outcomes. 

Investing in strategies and initiatives to promote collaboration and teamwork is a worthwhile endeavor that benefits patients and healthcare professionals, as it creates a supportive and fulfilling work environment. By prioritizing collaboration and teamwork, healthcare organizations can strive to provide the highest quality of care and achieve positive outcomes for patients and healthcare professionals.

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