Tips for Working Well as Part of the Medical Team

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When you work in the medical field, you will most likely be working side by side with other healthcare workers. Years ago, patients may have been cared for by a single doctor. But medicine has changed in the last few decades. Today, patients are rarely cared for by just one medical professional.

Whether you plan to become a doctor, physician assistant, nurse or other allied health professional, you need to be able to work well as part of a team. If you are still a student, it’s not too early to learn effective teamwork. In fact, the sooner you become a team player, the better.

The Need for Teamwork

Patient care often involves a collaboration of different disciplines and specialists. Everyone has their specific role and responsibilities. Although their duties may be different, the goal of optimal patient care should be the same. Working effectively as part of the healthcare team has several benefits for both patients and workers.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Critical Care, effective teamwork appears to improve patient outcomes. The study indicated that fewer medical errors are made when co-workers work well as part of a team. That may be due to good communication and a willingness to do what it takes for the good of the patient.

Teamwork may also enhance your knowledge. When you work closely with other medical professionals, you learn a bit about their role and specialty. A little increased knowledge is always a good thing.

In some instances, teamwork is necessary to prevent injury and perform a task efficiently. For example, if you need to position a patient for a procedure, it may be almost impossible to do it alone. Having someone else there to help, can not only make the task easier, but safer as well.

Being a team player is also good for morale. If you feel supported by your co-workers and know they have your back, it can make the job more pleasant. Teamwork also helps you feel part of something.

What Constitutes Good Team Work? 

In order to have effective teamwork, a few key components must be present. One of the most important things is to have good communication. Being passive-aggressive or not clear on what you need, will not benefit anyone. Communication with team members means a willingness to share observations in order to provide the best care possible. Without effective communication, you will have a hard time working cohesively with other healthcare professionals.

But good communication does not only involve stating your opinion and concerns, it also involves hearing what others have to say. Keep in mind, listening is an equally important part of good communication.  

Mutual respect is also needed in order to work well together. You do not have to be best friends with all your co-workers, but you need to respect them. That means being open to new ways of doing things and listening to what others have to say. Keep in mind, if you want to be treated with respect, you also need to respect others. 

Another component of effective teamwork is to have common goals. Even if you are doing different tasks, you are all working towards a similar goal, which is caring for your patient.

Tips to Become a Team Player

Effective teamwork does not always just happen. It takes effort and a willingness to do your part. Consider some of the tips below to help you become a good team player.

Slow down a bit. When work gets busy, and you feel rushed, you may want to hurry through your tasks to get it all done. That can lead to ineffective teamwork, which in the end can hurt the patient.

Learn to value diversity: Not everyone will perform a task the same as you do. Keep in mind, there is often more than one way to do things. For instance, just because it is not how you would handle a situation or perform a procedure, does not mean it is wrong.  People come into their job, with different backgrounds and experiences. Be open to diversity. You may learn something.

Don’t let your ego get the best of you. Everyone needs help at times. Whether you need assistance with a patient or help with a procedure, don’t let your ego get in the way of accepting help. Knowing when you are in over your head or are overwhelmed, is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of good judgment that you realize you need help.

Keep communication open: When you are working as part of a team, you have to be willing to speak up if you need to. Without open lines of communication, misunderstandings can develop. Try not to let personality differences get in the way of good communication. 

Be open to suggestions: There may be times you are working with other healthcare professionals who are caring for the same patients. In some situations, your co-workers may have a suggestion on how to better perform a task or deal with the patient. Consider listening to what you co-worker has to say. In some cases, you may not like the suggestion. But in others, it may be just what you needed.  

Consider helping out even if it is not your job. You may have instances where another healthcare workers ask you to lend a hand. As long as they are not asking you to do something outside your scope of practice, consider taking a moment to help. For example, if you were called to start an IV on a patient and the nurse asks you to help him re-position the patient, you may want to consider lending a hand, even if something is not in your job description,   

Keep in mind, you may need help in the future. Teamwork goes both ways. If you offered assistance in the past, your co-workers might be more willing to help you out when you need it.

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