Nurses play a vital role in health care; registered nurses comprise the largest health-care occupation, with 2.6 million jobs as of 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nurses treat patients, offer education and information to patients and their families, and provide emotional support to those who need it. Other responsibilities include performing medical tests, analyzing results and assisting with patient rehabilitation. Few patients see only one nurse or health-care provider, making it particularly important for nursing care professionals to develop strong teamwork skills.
In 2004, the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Hospitals listed communication problems and inadequate teamwork as one of the factors affecting infant death rates. Teamwork breakdowns can also have devastating effects in an emergency room environment, since lacking information or cooperation can lead to mistakes in nursing care. Conversely, teamwork can lead to more positive patient outcomes, thanks to more reasoned decisions developed through increased information-sharing and fewer mistakes made due to lack of information.
Teamwork in nursing care contributes directly to more effective communication. Nurses communicate with each other to compare general notes, discuss new information about a patient’s changed health status and note changes made in the patient’s medical care plan, such as prescriptions, dietary changes or surgeries planned. Nursing care also involves communicating with other health-care professionals, including physicians, speech therapists or respiratory therapists. Being a team player involves sharing insights, observations and concerns with relevant medical providers to make adjustments to patient care.
Maintaining a strong teamwork environment in nursing care can enhance colleague knowledge. Working together, nurses can pass along new strategies, techniques or information about particular diagnoses. This increases overall team knowledge, since nurses may come from varying training and experience backgrounds. More-experienced nurses can also help newer professionals or those transitioning to the job site from another location. Additionally, teamwork allows nursing colleagues to become more familiar with one another’s professional strengths and weaknesses. When assigning patients, a head nurse may assign a child patient to a nurse with significant experience or personal aptitude for working with children, or assign a cardiac patient to nurses who have just completed specialty trainings in innovative cardiac care.
Promoting teamwork in nursing care can also increase job satisfaction for those involved. Environments lacking a teamwork mentality may break down into competition, petty squabbles or frustrations, with employees perceived to be not pulling their weight. Teamwork can foster increased motivation and a willingness to be supportive during stressful or emergency health-care situations.
A strong teamwork ethic in nursing care can enhance self-governance. Nursing departments that don’t break down into frequent employee bickering and don’t make avoidable mistakes but do consistently produce quality care are more likely to be permitted some autonomy and self-governance within the hospital or medical care environment. Ineffective nursing departments may be more subject to administrative scrutiny and regulation.