In the field of healthcare work, effective collaboration and interaction can have direct ramifications for patient care. For example, the Victoria Climbé inquiry (Department of Health, 2003) and the Bristol inquiry (Department of Health, 2001a) both indicated the need to move towards collaborative teamwork, and the need for a review of professional education and training in the UK (Humphris and Hean, 2004).
The modernisation of healthcare in recent years has initiated a move towards a team-based model of healthcare delivery (Baker et al., 2006; Wagner, 2004). Poor teamwork skills in healthcare have been found to be a contributing cause of negative incidents in patient care, while effective teamwork has been linked to more positive patient outcomes (Grumbach and Bodenheimer, 2004; Runicman et al., 1993).
Effective interprofessional teamworking
- Effective healthcare requires co-ordinate and concerted efforts from individuals from various disciplines and a system of delivery (Wagner, 2004).
- Effective care requires the concerted and co-ordinated activities of multiple people and disciplines.
- Teamwork can contribute to job satisfaction.
- Teamwork can assist in the development and promotion of interprofessional communication (Opie, 1997).
Challenges associated with interprofessional team working
- A clear understanding of one’s professional identity, likely role within a team and the ideas about related health professionals are tested and developed (Wagner, 2004).
- The perceptions of one’s own professional identity and others’ assumption about the professional identities of other groups may not align.
- There is an expectation that in professional settings a grouping of individuals will have the capabilities required to adjust their own practice to bring about a particular patient outcome (Barrie, 2004).
- Invalid assumptions may lead to breakdown in communication and teamwork, and constitute a barrier in effective patient care (Barrie, 2004).
- Research suggests that students rated their communication and teamwork skills positively, and were favourably inclined towards interprofessional learning, but held negative opinions about interprofessional interaction (Pollard et al., 2004).
Interprofessional team cohesiveness
- A study assessing the cohesiveness of a multidisciplinary operating theatre (OT) found that nurses tended to view the team as being a unitary entity, while the surgeons and anaesthetists perceived the team as being made up of several sub-teams (Undre et al., 2006)
- Interprofessional teamwork and communication within this case was deemed by the OT health professionals to be acceptable, with room for improvement.
- Undre et al.’s (2006) findings suggest that OT health professionals are not required to view themselves as a unitary body, in order to achieve acceptable levels of teamwork. However, this does not mean that shared understanding is not desired or encouraged, as this can lead to a barrier to the efficacy of interprofessional healthcare teams.
Group dynamics and interprofessional education
- Pollard et al. (2004) examined attitudes towards collaborative learning both prior to and after gaining a qualification in a health science. They found that older students and those with prior experience in health or social care were more likely to hold negative attitudes towards interprofessional teamworking.
- Tunstall-Pedoe et al., (2003) had similar findings of negative attitudes in medical students who shared a foundation programme for medicine, radiography and nursing (perhaps due to archetypal stereotyping?).
- Pollard et al. (2004) suggest that this negativity to IPE is rooted in the older and more experienced students, thus indicating that interprofessional interventions should perhaps be implemented at several levels during the education process.