Teamwork

Teamwork seems to come naturally for some and not for others. It is defined simply as a collaborative effort toward a common goal. Health care naturally lends itself to teamwork, as there is not usually a time when one single person is solely responsible for a patient's outcomes.

One person could cause a downfall or occasionally the untimely death of a patient, but that happens most often when the teamwork effort fails. When the team works together toward a common goal to improve the outcome for a patient, usually the effort is successful. Again, this can be true even when the patient dies, such as if the goal was to reduce pain and suffering and provide for a peaceful death. Reducing or minimizing pain and suffering is always a goal in responsible health care.

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The health care team members will have supplementary and/or complementary roles. The team needs to have a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities of each member and to accommodate professional differences. It is important to understand your role and to stay within your scope of practice. Each member has to uphold her responsibilities to the team.

One of the best examples of a health care team in action is that depicted in ER (emergency room) scenes on television or in the movies, where groups of physicians, nurses, paramedics, technicians, and ancillary staff all work together to save a life. Each member has a separate role, but they all have one common goal.

It is vital to understand the hierarchy of the team. The patient is the ultimate decision maker if he is capable of fulfilling this role. If, for example, he is unconscious, then consent is implied and the highest-ranking health care team member makes the decisions. This person will then direct the team in the course of action to be taken. Each team member will perform her duties as assigned and within her scope of practice. Your scope of practice will be defined by your license and education and training.

One of the advantages of teamwork is that as members put forth their best efforts, team members learn from one another. Over time they perfect and improve their own professional skills and abilities, including those vital communication, leadership, problem-solving, and technical skills.

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