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Promoting teamwork in a nursing unit

Effective teamwork in the healthcare sector, such as in nursing units, can positively and immediately affect patient safety. As astutely outlined by Babiker et al (2014) “[T]he evolution in healthcare and a global demand for quality patient care necessitate a parallel healthcare professional development with a great focus on patient centred teamwork approach”. 
There is strong belief that teamwork interventions are able to influence performance outcomes such as patient safety, effectiveness of patient care, and efficiency within various healthcare settings. It is therefore of utmost significance for staff to work as a team- if not for a harmonious work environment, then at the very least to provide the best care possible for patients.
A review in the journal Human Resources for Health (2020) indicates that there are various methods of enhancing teamwork in the healthcare sector, and outline a few of the most effective.


The most likely method to be effective for enhancing teamwork is training. The biggest chance of reaching desired improvements in team functioning were found to be interventions that focus on improving non-technical skills, and those that provide evidence of improvement. These include principle-based training (Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Team Strategies and Tools to Enhance Performance and Patient Safety (TeamSTEPPS)) as well as simulation-based training.


Many studies about promoting teamwork and its improvement focus on acute hospital care and focus on two specific tools- (de)briefing checklists and the instrument known as Situation, Background, Assessment, and Recommendation (SBAR), with particularly strong evidence in favour of the former. These two are known to standardize the team interaction process, whereas facilitating tools (like those used in communication technology) are known to provide better opportunities for interaction amongst the team members. 

Organizational (re)design

This involves (re)designing structures within an organization that lead to improved processes and functioning within the team by redesigning schedules, implementing pathways, and introducing or redesigning responsibilities and roles. Further amendments can be made to elements within the organization such as the physical environment, payment systems, and also forming dedicated teams to focus on a certain unit or patient. 


Strong evidence suggests that programmes comprised of a mixture of training, tools, and/or organizational (re)design may be effective in improving teamwork, also known as a ‘Human Resource Management bundle’. This includes educational and learning sessions with tools including the likes of SBAR and rounds, as well as structural interventions such as standardizing processes and meetings. Studies show that this approach frequently takes the organizational context into account by considering the development of an improvement plan and tailoring choices based on the local situation.
There are various methods of enhancing and promoting teamwork in a nursing unit and are not limited to the above- the inner workings of an organization need to be taken into account before deciding on an appropriate avenue. Something that is effective for one, may not be relevant or effective for another. Nevertheless, the examples outlined in the review suggest that they are a good place to start when looking for ideas about how to go about this.
Do you have experience with teamwork on a nursing unit? If so, we’d love to hear about it! At Clinical24, we care about our staff and always look out for their best interests, so if you’re looking for a new shift with a company that takes a holistic approach to your personal and professional wellbeing, take a look at our latest vacancies and apply within. If you'd prefer to get in touch with our team, browse through our contact page and choose a channel that suits you!