The need to collaborate with other professionals is one of the key aspects of modern healthcare, with many people from varied disciplines often having to work together to achieve a suitable outcome for their patients and their families. What do you need to know about interprofessional collaboration and how to get it right?
What is interprofessional collaboration?
It is a situation in which two or more healthcare workers are dealing with the same patient and share information, or in some other way, work together for a better result. There are many examples of how it works, from a nurse and a social worker speaking together to physicians and pharmacists sharing information.
It’s something that patients won’t always be aware of, as it’s done behind the scenes. Even if they notice that their health providers are working closely together, they may simply take it for granted. Yet, there are some huge benefits for the patient and also for the people looking after them when good collaboration practices are followed.
What are the benefits of doing this?
The importance of collaboration in the workplace has long been known, but not everyone takes the time to think about why this matters as much as it does. The truth is that there are a series of benefits that can be gained from doing this well, such as a lower risk of conflict and better levels of job satisfaction for everyone involved.
Conflict can occur when workers feel that colleagues are stepping on their toes by telling them what to do or carrying out someone else’s job instead of their own, but it can also be a result of poor communication and a lack of collaboration. No one likes to be left in the dark, and collaborating with others is a way of letting others know what’s going on and showing professional courtesy.
It’s even been noted in studies that working with others in this way can help to increase the confidence of the people involved and lower the risk of emotional exhaustion. Part of the reason for this is likely to be the way that it lowers the workload and increases the feeling of working efficiently to help their patients.
In terms of confidence, this could simply be a result of carrying out their job well and feeling good about it. The feeling of seeing a patient get better thanks to good teamwork is a great feeling that inspires healthcare workers to feel positive about their role in helping others.
This efficient way of working with other professionals can have a positive effect on the way that the hospital, medical center, or other organization works. They are probably going to use their budget more effectively if they can count on all the workers from different disciplines pulling together.
However, we should always remember that it’s the patient who gets the most benefit from this approach. Rather than being confused and wasting time as they get different opinions from everyone they speak to, the patients should receive a smoother experience where they get the feeling that all the healthcare workers have their best interests at heart, as well as everyone fully understanding their case.
Gaining the right skills
To collaborate with other professionals, you’ll first need to gain the skills to carry out your own role effectively. It means getting trained in the different aspects of the job and then putting that knowledge into practice.
For example, if you plan to work in a nursing role, choosing from the best Online Clinical Nurse Leader programs will help you choose the right training to learn all the important aspects of the role. For example, the University of Indianapolis offers a highly regarded online master of science in nursing – nursing and health systems leadership (MSN-NHSL), which offers modules focusing on communicating and coordinating complex health system processes, as well as 240 clinical hours of practice and completion in only seven semesters.
Communication skills are arguably the most important area of all. Someone can carry out a healthcare role to a high standard in every other aspect, but if they lack the ability to communicate well with their colleagues, then it’s going to be difficult for them to collaborate effectively.
Conflict resolution, negotiation, and open-mindedness are among the other skills and abilities needed to collaborate at a high level. As we can see, this is something that relies heavily on soft skills or interpersonal skills rather than technical knowledge, but a solid understanding of the technical side of healthcare is also needed to understand how everything fits together.
Recognizing the skills and contributions of others
Everyone who works in healthcare has a huge role to play in looking after their patients. As we’ve seen, learning your own role well enough to be an effective part of the overall effort to help others is the starting point.
Yet, understanding how your skills fit in with what other professionals in the industry offer is just as important. Once you know what the people who work in each area do and how they interact with your role, it’ll become a lot easier to see how everything fits together depending on the circumstances.
Of course, as well as knowing each worker’s role, it’s also crucial that you value their contribution. By viewing everyone involved as a valuable member of the team, you can feel more open about sharing details with them and welcoming their input. A team effort is usually needed to help patients get better, and nobody can expect to do it all on their own.
Indeed, good collaboration is one of the basic principles needed to build a happy and positive working environment for everyone. The idea is that everyone feels more satisfied when they work with each other and can add their own knowledge to a good mixture of skills gained by co-workers from varied backgrounds.
How can better collaboration be encouraged and carried out?
Most healthcare workers should hopefully feel encouraged to boost their collaboration levels when they understand the benefits that we’ve looked at here. It’s clear that this is an approach designed to help everyone and that it should ideally become part of the working lives of all those who work in healthcare in some way.
It’s also important to note that collaboration needs to be carried out while taking into account the current health policies and governance in place in each country, state, and workplace. In general terms, workers will be expected to work with others while taking into account the likes of data privacy laws and current standards.
It is also something that needs to be taken into account when a healthcare provider creates their teams and trains them. Teams should have complementary skills that ensure that they can work together effectively and not leave any gaps in knowledge or experience.
The health authorities are also responsible for encouraging their team members to view each other as colleagues they can trust and work closely with. A more harmonious approach to teamwork is often fostered through the use of special events such as cross-team training courses, awards ceremonies, and fun team-building events.
What happens when collaboration fails?
There are many possible problems that could occur when healthcare teams don’t collaborate well. These range from minor inconveniences, such as obliging a patient to make an appointment for a return visit for something that could have been dealt with at the same time as their original appointment, to more serious matters.
Among the more serious matters, it’s easy to imagine situations in which a nurse or physician is kept in the dark because a colleague doesn’t share information with them correctly. It could lead to an incorrect diagnosis or the wrong medication being used.
Failure can also occur even if the different team members have the right intentions and try their best to work together. It could be the case if they simply don’t have the skills or the experience, or if they don’t have a good understanding of how their role fits into the overall organization.
The role of nurses is central to collaboration
Everyone who deals with a patient has a huge role to play in ensuring a high level of collaboration. Having said that, it’s easy to see why nurses are often viewed as being the key workers in this respect.
Nurses tend to have the advantage of seeing the bigger picture, which allows them to view the patient as a whole. They can see how the patient’s care has to fit into the overall context of their home, their work, and the environment where they live, together with their broad knowledge of different types of healthcare.
Another aspect is the importance of communication in the nursing role. Nurses are often excellent communicators, and that’s vital when it comes to speaking to and dealing with other team members and letting them understand what a patient’s needs are.
It is why nurses are commonly regarded as coordinators in a healthcare setting. They’re typically used to dealing with a wide variety of people from different backgrounds and knowledge levels, so they’re central to any complex, patient-centered process that covers various areas.
The growing importance of holistic nursing is a sign that collaboration to ensure better patient care is gaining ground. By putting the well-being of the patient at the center of the process, it becomes easier for us to understand why collaboration is now so important.
The use of technology
In recent years, it’s become clearer that technology has a massive role to play in helping diverse teams work together more easily. However, there’s also a growing risk that technology can become a barrier to this happening. Problems may arise if healthcare workers use technology as a way of avoiding their colleagues by not answering emails promptly, for example.
Technology such as blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) have recently been incorporated into the healthcare industry in a number of existing ways, and this has the potential to make it far easier for us to share the responsibility for a patient’s well-being.
For example, the blockchain creates a unique record using ledge technology, which means a patient’s record is secure and transparent. However, like any technology, it needs to be used correctly for us to get the maximum amount of benefit out of it at all times.
In terms of AI, this technology is expected to become far more common in the health sector in the next few years. It is not yet clear exactly what form this will take, but we can expect it to be similar to the blockchain in that it needs to be approached with a spirit of collaboration to make it work well.
The rise of telemedicine has introduced a new challenge for the medical profession, as well as opening up new opportunities. With health professionals carrying out virtual consultations, it should be easier to record the details digitally. However, there’s also the risk of them feeling more isolated from their colleagues when working in this way.
The future of collaboration in healthcare
No matter what new technology is introduced, the need for health professionals to collaborate is going to remain as high as ever, and it may even increase due to the demands of the new technology. It means that it’s going to be a subject that everyone in the industry needs to be aware of.
The best way to improve in this aspect is through extensive training. Every professional needs to understand how their role fits into the bigger picture and what other roles they need to interact with in different situations.
However, the most crucial point of all is understanding the need for collaborative work practices and what they bring to the healthcare sector. Once someone sees why this matters so much, it becomes a lot easier for them to incorporate it into their daily routines.
Interprofessional collaboration is the key to better patient outcomes and something that everyone in the health sector needs to understand. Whether it’s as part of a training course for a new recruit or a team-building session for an experienced professional, it’s something that we can’t afford to overlook or take for granted.