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Better Teamwork for a Better Patient Experience

April 24, 2018

As part of PRC’s celebration of Patient Experience Week with the Beryl Institute, we’re publishing a series of four daily blog posts discussing key elements of an excellent patient experience: communication, teamwork, safety, and timeliness.

Mel Policicchio

In the spirit of honesty, I was an accident-prone teenager. When you compound a serious growth spurt with the fact that I spent every spare moment riding half-trained horses, I’ve taken more than one trip to the local emergency room. During this rough and tumble time in my life, I got pretty good at answering the standard questions from doctors and nurses. The pain is more sharp than achy, Bush is the current president, and that shoulder that’s hanging limply from its socket is definitely a 9, please stop touching it.

But one question I always hated was “name, birthday, and allergies.” To a 14-year-old, repeating this information is tedious at best and an opportunity for mischief at worst. I understood why I had to share this information, just not why I had to share this information with eleven different people when it was already strapped to my wrist. When one nurse left and another arrived, why didn’t the first nurse just tell the second nurse who I was?

From where I sat, it seemed like I had eleven competent people working on me in eleven independent ways. I now understand how each of those people worked together to get me in and out of the emergency room as efficiently as possible, but that teamwork just wasn’t evident to me and, according to research, many other patients as well. This begs the question, how do you take your teamwork from good to great? What does it mean to be a team player instead of just a group of people working together?

“Teamwork is not only highly related to patient satisfaction, it is a cornerstone of patient safety,” said Annie Brito, BSN, RN-BC, CCRN, CHPN. As the Manager of Office of Patient and Family Experience for WakeMed Health & Hospitals, Brito has seen firsthand the importance of a cohesive team.

“Seeing the team—regardless of education, role, or degree—communicating with respect and working together in pursuit of their common goal of safe and effective care, builds trust with patients and families,” she said.

How can healthcare teams be their very best? The answer, Brito said, is in the people.

“Hire the right person,” she said. “There are likely multiple candidates for your positions with the capacity to properly perform the skills required. Hire only the ones who demonstrate the capacity to deliver the behavioral expectations of your organization. While many of the specific requirements of your positions can be taught, success begins with hiring the person who comes pre-packaged for success with inherent interpersonal abilities.”

Once the right people are on board, it’s important for leaders to create a team-oriented culture through education, respect, and communication.

“Every hospital employee plays an important part in the patient’s safe care, recovery, and overall experience,” Brito said. “Learning to value what each individual brings to the team and honoring their participation in the whole of the experience creates a culture of mutual respect and a sense of teamwork.”

Finally, Brito says, encourage your team to be their best selves and help them to feel proud of their work and their company.

“Actively look for opportunities to recognize individuals on your team in the moment when you see them demonstrating the behaviors and standards your organization values,” Brito said.

“Every chance you can find to manage-up members of your team is an occasion to reinforce and recognize that which is important. In most instances, acknowledging their contributions and value in front of colleagues, patients, and families is an additional win and increases the likelihood of repetition of the behavior.”

What do these elements of teamwork mean for patient experience? A team that works together makes the patient feel more confident in their caregivers. Members of a highly effective team are more likely to explain to the 14-year-old in the emergency department why they’re asking questions that have been asked and answered eleven times before. Those teams are also more likely to have warm exchanges in front of the patient, demonstrating their cohesiveness. These changes foster a more positive and productive healing environment, the kind of hospital that patients leave with a smile instead of more questions and uncertainty.

To learn more about how to improve your teamwork skills, and other tips for creating an environment of healthcare excellence, be sure to register for the May 20-22 Excellence in Healthcare Conference. Held at Wild Dunes Resort in Charleston, South Carolina, this conference unites hundreds of healthcare experts and promises to help healthcare professionals relax, refocus, and recharge.

We’re celebrating Patient Experience Week every day this week, so check back tomorrow for more tips on how to enhance your patient experience!