3. Characteristics of effective interdisciplinary medical teams
Interdisciplinary medical team work is increasingly prevalent, supported by policies and practices that bring care closer to the patient and challenge traditional professional boundaries. Interdisciplinary team work is a complex process in which different types of staff work together to share expertise, knowledge, and skills to impact on patient care. Despite increasing emphasis on interdisciplinary team work over the past decade, in particular the growth of interdisciplinary education, there is little evidence as to the most effective way of delivering interdisciplinary team work. This difficulty is compounded by the multifactorial nature of team work, which comprises the skill mix, setting of care, service organization, individual relationships and management structures.
Team success is not a given fact, and you can’t just gather a bunch of employees with the right experience and tell them what to do it; they are unlikely to give the desired results. Each team must be made up of strategic roles that have a specific purpose. These roles must be played by employees who not only have the right experience, but also the right characteristics:
- Have a clear leader who demonstrates shared power, is supportive, and listens.
- Are comprised of individuals with communication skills and appropriate systems to promote team communication.
- Ensure opportunities for career development, training, learning, as well as individual rewards to improve morale and motivation.
- Establish clear structure (e.g., team meetings, organization) and procedures which support the team vision.
- Feature a full staff of competent practitioners with a balance of personalities capable of complimenting each other’s’ strengths.
- Demonstrate a culture of trust, nurture, and value of team member contributions.
- Contain experienced and knowledgeable team members who listen to others, understand their own strengths and weaknesses, and are interested in working on shared goals.
- Communicate a clear and consistent set of values underlying the team vision which drive the direction of service.
- Assess quality of care and outcomes through regular feedback.
- Share respect and understanding of each team member’s role, with autonomy of practice and shared power.
See also: Building an Interdisciplinary Team