The value of interprofessional collaboration in healthcare organizations

The value of interprofessional collaboration in healthcare organizations

Getting health professionals to collaborate effectively in the long term is a priority for many healthcare organizations. Hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and even doctors’ offices now understand that it can mean the difference between success and failure.

Medicine has become highly specialized. Gone are the days when a GP knew it all and only referred his most complex cases to specialists. Today’s patient expects a high level of personalized care. To deliver, healthcare teams must collaborate flawlessly.

A few decades ago, the doctor did everything. They drew blood and other samples, made diagnoses, wrote prescriptions, and in some cases, they acted as the dispensing pharmacist. By visiting with one individual, a patient could get everything they needed.

That has changed. Today’s doctor is not an ‘expert’ at everything. He is more likely to be a specialist who works with a team where each team member has a specific role to play. It is only through collaboration that healthcare providers can deliver high-quality care.

Interprofessional collaboration is not just about bettering the quality of healthcare. It benefits doctors and nurses as well as the institutions they work for. 

A report on PubMed Central summarized the value of interprofessional collaboration in healthcare. After analyzing several studies, the authors concluded that collaboration decreased morbidity and mortality rates in patients, lowered the chances of adverse drug reactions, and helped doctors prescribe optimal dosages.

What is interprofessional collaboration?

Put simply, it is when healthcare professionals from different disciplines and backgrounds work together within the same organization to achieve a common goal. It can be described as team-based healthcare. 

Some may argue that it is the way things have always been done. When a typical patient walks into a hospital, they are greeted by a nurse who takes down their information and makes an initial diagnosis before passing them on to the doctor. 

The doctor does a thorough exam, orders tests from a laboratory technician, writes a prescription for the pharmacist to fill, and if needed, makes a referral to a specialist. To many, that sounds like collaboration. 

Unfortunately, it usually is not enough to provide the patient with a stellar experience. Interprofessional collaboration is about more than sharing data and communicating efficiently. Team members must engage with each other and with the patient to provide the best possible treatment. 

The concept is not new. As far back as 1972, the Institute of Medicine recommended team-based care to improve patient outcomes and safety. Although the ideas were not immediately picked up, they have since been adopted by many healthcare institutions.

The World Health Organization has helped to sell the concept, stressing the need for collaboration in the delivery of personal, community and global healthcare solutions.

What is the nurse’s role?

Nurses can specialize in specific areas of medical practice. Today’s practitioners can choose geriatrics, pediatrics, clinical nursing, critical care or a variety of other specialties. 

If you look for ‘ABSN programs near me’, you will find highly reputable institutions such as Elmhurst University that teach generalized nursing. Students encounter topics like health assessment and promotion for people of different ages, introduction to nursing research and community health nursing, among other modules.

However, after you complete the ABSN program you can enroll in an additional course to get certified as a specialist in your chosen field. These additional courses do not take very long, and you can expect to qualify in two years or less.

Many nurses opt to specialize because it gives them a chance to work in their desired area of healthcare, and because it pays more. Some nurses, for example, choose pediatric nursing because it has always been their desire to work with children. After their degree they can choose a pediatric nursing course that gives them the necessary credentials to work in a children’s hospital or a children’s ward. 

To successfully deliver healthcare, they must work with other child specialists. They become part of a team of doctors, laboratory technicians, oncologists, pharmacists and IT experts, among others. 

Nurses play a vital role in these teams because they have the most contact with patients. They talk to them, observe them and listen to their worries and concerns. Whatever information they pick up during these interactions can be passed to the rest of the team who can work together to deliver holistic treatment solutions. 

When caring for a patient, it is the job of the nurse to talk to the rest of the team. Apart from sharing their assessments, they should ask each member for their opinions and advice. Sharing information like this leads to better care, and patients tend to report high levels of satisfaction with their treatment.

What are the benefits?

One of the most pressing challenges facing healthcare delivery is a lack of coordination between departments. Interprofessional collaboration was developed to tackle this problem, but it also has several other benefits. 

  • It improves the quality of the patient journey

The typical patient journey begins with an appointment or a visit to the ER, followed by tests, a diagnosis and eventually treatment. It can be arduous, particularly for those who are chronically ill. 

When health professionals collaborate, they make the journey easier. Everyone who is involved in delivering care is always aware of the patient’s status. They carry out their tasks and loop in the rest of the team. 

Such a collaborative effort ensures that every carer who deals with the patient is fully aware of all issues and takes them into account as they design or deliver treatments. 

  • Collaboration allows access to critical information

It is not uncommon in hospitals for one department to be completely unaware of what another is doing. This slows down the treatment process and increases the likelihood of errors. 

It also leads to wasted time. Sometimes doctors and nurses must write endless emails or make numerous calls to find out information that should be centrally located for all to see. If they received this information promptly, they would deliver treatments more swiftly. 

Every healthcare professional who works with the patient should be privy to all information regarding their case so that they can provide the highest quality of care and eliminate errors.

  • The exchange of expertise between professionals is invaluable

Specialization means that professionals are subject matter experts. When they work together in a team, each member is in a unique position to educate the others. The common goal of such information exchanges is to provide each person on the team with information that helps them deliver better patient care.

  • Hospitals can eliminate communication silos

A communication silo occurs when teams look inwards and ignore the big-picture goals. In a hospital setting, doctors and nurses may be so focused on meeting patient quotas that they forget about personalized patient care. 

With collaboration, everyone in the hospital is in the loop, and they work to align the hospital’s goals with departmental targets. 

  • Collaboration helps reduce medical errors

A study by Johns Hopkins shows that medical errors are the third leading cause of death in America. More than 250,000 people die annually due to errors that could have been prevented by streamlining systems and procedures and sharing information. 

Patients are more aware than ever of what they should expect from healthcare providers. Small mistakes can end up costing a hospital a lot of money. Even worse, they often cost lives. 

Mistakes happen when there is a communication breakdown. If one part of the treatment team does not know what the other is doing, they can make costly errors. Collaboration keeps doctors, nurses and other professionals on the same page. They have access to all patient information and consult as needed. 

  • Collaboration means less work for team members

Imagine a nurse who must travel several floors to the laboratory to collect patient test results, then back to the ward to find the doctor, who has to find and contact a specialist to come in and perform a procedure. 

The doctor and the nurse have done more work than they should. Institutions that employ collaborative practices have all laboratory work uploaded as soon as it is received. They have a central database of specialists who can be reached with ease. 

Staff in institutions that insist on interprofessional collaboration report that they do less work and achieve better results than in those where doctors, nurses and management do not talk to one another. 

  • Hospital staff avoid burnout

Burnout in the workplace is real. Employees are so passionate about what they do that they fail to consider that their jobs can take a toll. 

As a result, quiet quitting has become a global phenomenon. Professionals are overworked and rather than resign and face an uncertain job market, they only do the bare minimum. It can have dire effects in a clinical setting.

During the COVID pandemic, the world saw doctors and nurses burn out. They were so overworked that many of them opted to quit when they were most needed.

Healthcare professionals must take care of their health if they are to give their best. They should not take on more work than they can handle. One way to do that is to work within teams. It eliminates repetitive tasks and lightens the load for everyone.

  • Team members report higher levels of satisfaction

Healthcare professionals who work in teams with high levels of collaboration report higher satisfaction levels than those who do not. Interprofessional collaboration means that they can deliver high-quality care and achieve positive outcomes for most patients. 

A positive outcome makes any healthcare professional feel good about the work that they do. They are motivated to collaborate even further to deliver more positive outcomes in the future.

How can healthcare organizations adopt interprofessional collaboration?

After completing your ABSN course you will be qualified to work as a nurse manager, and one of your duties may be to come up with strategies that foster interprofessional collaboration. 

You will need to do more than ask colleagues to share information. Below are some of the common strategies that have been adopted by hospitals and clinics that have successfully adopted collaboration:

  • Get everyone on the same page — if all healthcare professionals know what is expected of them you will have an easier time getting them to collaborate. Let everyone know that it is about more than sharing data and information. They should actively engage with one another and with patients, and they should keep each other up to date. 
  • Team building helps — it may sound cliché but doing team building activities fosters bonding between colleagues and makes it easier for them to collaborate. 
  • Weave interprofessional collaboration into everyday activities — it is easy to get people to collaborate when they are doing a special project, but it is harder when they are asked to do it routinely. Get nurses and doctors to talk to each other and share information every day. It fosters the right mindset for collaboration.
  • Have a team reward system — most rewards are given to individuals for exceptional performance. You can use the same system to reward teams that meet and exceed their goals. If teams feel appreciated and recognized, the organization has an easier time getting them to work together.
  • Encourage social interaction — while it is true that hospitals and other healthcare institutions are busy places, and nurses are often tired, getting them to know each other better makes interprofessional collaboration easier. 
  • Champion open communication — if employees know that they can ask questions and offer opinions without judgment they will be more willing to talk to one another. Do not forget that good communication starts from the top. All management should have an open-door policy and doctors, nurses and others should not be judged or punished for proffering their views. 
  • Have a knowledge base — where can hospital employees go for answers? You can set up an online knowledge base, have a library, and even conduct brainstorming sessions once or twice a month.

Important soft skills

Nurses need to develop a certain skill set to succeed within teams. Some people are lucky, and these skills come naturally. If you do not have them, you can cultivate them over time and become an excellent collaborator.

  • Communication — be clear and concise in your spoken and written communication. Keep in mind that within a clinical setting, a lot of information is time-sensitive, so learn to communicate without delay. Understanding non-verbal communication is also important. The silent cues you send out can hinder others from being open with you.
  • Listening — this skill is vital to all aspects of healthcare, not just when dealing with patients, but colleagues as well.
  • Respecting diversity and different cultures — you will encounter colleagues from different races and varied backgrounds with diverse opinions. Accept them as fellow professionals and team members. Try to learn about different cultures. It eliminates false beliefs about others and provides insight into behaviors you may otherwise find odd or unacceptable.
  • Emotional intelligence — this skill helps you understand others around you and react appropriately. An emotionally intelligent person can read cues correctly and empathize with others. They know what to say without creating awkward situations, and they make others feel accepted. They also acknowledge the contributions of other team members.
  • Conflict resolution — conflict is inevitable in the workplace and within teams. Be the sort of nurse who knows how to avoid it and how to resolve conflict between colleagues. Foster an atmosphere of respect and encourage others to take responsibility.
  • Open-mindedness — this is a vital skill for nurses and other healthcare professionals. Hospitals attract all sorts of people, and passing judgment just because someone is different will affect how you communicate with them. Remember, interprofessional collaboration is all about good communication. If you are open-minded towards your colleagues, you help build a happy, safe workplace. 
  • Being organized and paying attention to the little things — your team members should trust that the information you share with them is timely and accurate. When you share written communication, it should be organized and easy to understand. Pay attention to detail and do not let the little things fall through the cracks.
  • Adaptability — you will work with different teams over the years, and the faster you can adapt the better for your patients and colleagues. 

Does an ABSN course teach interprofessional collaboration?

As you look for an ABSN program, you can read through the different course catalogs to find out whether interprofessional collaboration is part of the curriculum. It may come under different titles depending on the university, but the course content will be about working within teams. 

Choose an ABSN that teaches the soft skills needed for nursing, as they are the same skills needed for teamwork and collaboration. 

Conclusion

Healthcare institutions understand the value of interprofessional collaboration within the clinical setting. They value nurses who work well with others, and they promote them through the ranks. 

Identify courses that have an emphasis on collaboration. You will be introduced to the elements of teamwork and the skills that are needed to work well within teams. If you do not possess some of the necessary soft skills, you can develop them over time.

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