How nursing leaders can unite healthcare teams for better patient outcomes

Patient outcomes are priority number one in healthcare, and strong teams that truly believe in what they’re doing are best equipped to achieve good outcomes. It’s the job of a nursing leader to build this sense of unity and collaboration within the team, and this is an ongoing process. There are a range of specific strategies that can be used to enhance team unity, as well as some common obstacles that need to be addressed, and we’ll explore both of these areas and more throughout this article.

Modern healthcare

Given its size and importance, healthcare is a field that’s in a constant state of change. Research is constantly being done to improve best practices, and there always seems to be new technology disrupting one part or another of healthcare. Changes in society are also part of this, with an aging population being the next big challenge that healthcare will face. Taking all of this into consideration, it’s fair to say that this type of environment demands cohesive teams in hospitals and clinics worldwide.

One issue that’s prevalent in today’s healthcare sector is disjointed teamwork. With many specialties working independently, there can be miscommunication or a lack of information sharing that leads to inefficiencies in patient care. These operational silos can sometimes lead to avoidable errors that affect patient outcomes. An example of this could be if a radiologist identifies an abnormality but fails to communicate it effectively to the primary care physician, and it delays diagnosis or treatment.

There is also a nursing shortage to contend with, which can lead to increased workloads. One way to respond to this challenge is to consider an online masters in nursing education, like the one offered by the University of Indianapolis. Their coursework is completely online and has everything required to prepare you for a long and fulfilling career. An online masters in nursing education equips you with the skills and knowledge to become a nurse educator, which is a critical role in preparing the next generation of nurses.

Nursing leaders and team unity

Let’s talk about unity and the important role of leadership in nursing. Nurse leaders are required to set expectations for their teams, model the right behaviors, and directly influence the dynamics of their teams. Embracing these responsibilities and acting on them effectively is exactly how you get everyone to buy in and be unified.

Leadership begins with setting clear expectations. A nurse leader may find themselves defining goals, outlining roles and responsibilities, and establishing standards of performance for their teams. This clarity provides structure to the work and develops a sense of shared purpose.

How nursing leaders carry and conduct themselves also significantly impacts teamwork. Their attitudes towards collaboration often shape how the rest of the team interacts with each other. If they display an open-minded approach and are willing to listen to other people’s ideas, it encourages the rest of the team to do that, too.

Strategies for building strong teams

As well as directly setting expectations for teams, there are specific strategies that nurse leaders can use to improve team collaboration. One effective way is by making sure everybody feels included, supported, and heard. All team members should feel that their opinion matters and feel completely comfortable raising anything they feel needs to be raised. Communication channels should be open, and there needs to be a strong emphasis on mutual respect throughout the team.

Another strategy lies in the way a nurse leader manages conflicts. Conflicts are inevitable within any healthcare setting due to the high-stress nature of this work, as well as personality clashes and different specialties working together. Nurse leaders need to make sure not only that conflicts get resolved but also that they are turned into constructive dialogues instead. A perfect conflict would be one where the people involved learn something from it, and the unity of the team becomes strengthened as a result.

Regular team meetings are a good way to ensure things get raised before they become bigger conflicts, but they serve other purposes, too. They’re a chance for everyone to regroup and ensure everyone is on the same page. They are the perfect place to raise any questions or concerns about patient care plans or any other issues members of the team can see. If done correctly, these sessions can also be ways to provide feedback.

Overcoming barriers to collaboration

It’s inevitable that you’ll face barriers during your pursuit of building unity within your team. One common stumbling block is a culture that prioritizes individual performance over teamwork. It can lead to competition instead of cooperation, hindering the sharing of knowledge and ideas.

It’s important to change your organization’s culture to one that values team achievements and promotes collective responsibility for patient outcomes to overcome this. You don’t want individuals to feel like their work is not appreciated, so it is a fine balance, but collaboration and teamwork over individuals should always be emphasized.

Another significant barrier is resistance from staff who are either used to working on their own or are skeptical about the benefits of collaboration. To handle this kind of resistance, nurse leaders need to demonstrate how teamwork leads to both better patient care and improved job satisfaction. Providing training sessions highlighting these benefits can be one good way to change attitudes.

Unclear roles within a team may also pose challenges, as they can lead to confusion or overlap of responsibilities and create conflicts. To avoid this, establish clear roles with clearly defined duties for each member, and ensure everyone knows what they’re accountable for.

Team unity on patient outcomes

If you’re going to encourage unity in your team because it will help patient outcomes, it’s a good idea to be able to demonstrate exactly how it will do that. Medical errors are one good example of this. They are a significant concern in any healthcare setting and often a result of poor communication among team members rather than individual incompetence. A united team that communicates well is much less likely to make medical errors.

There’s also a psychological impact on patients when they observe well-coordinated care delivery. This perception can boost their confidence in the treatment plan and overall satisfaction. In the same way a team member may feel satisfied when they are heard and understood, a patient will feel satisfied when they are confident in those looking after them.

There’s a link between collaborative teamwork and improved patient outcomes in chronic disease management, too. One example is diabetes management, which requires regular monitoring of blood sugar levels, diet control measures, and medication adherence. It can all be overwhelming for patients to manage alone, but with a unified approach involving nurses and experts from other specialties, the patient is much more likely to buy in and comply.

Staff outcomes and satisfaction

Although the focus has been on patient outcomes so far, staff outcomes and satisfaction are another important part of team unity. When a healthcare team works together, individual members feel they are part of a bigger cause, and overall morale improves. This sense of belonging not only leads to higher job satisfaction but also reduces the chances of burnout and turnover.

United teams will generally have an atmosphere conducive to professional growth and learning. Sharing knowledge across different roles can grow each member’s understanding of patient care, ultimately enhancing their skills and competencies. This cross-pollination of ideas can often result in innovative ideas and lead to a culture where learning and thinking outside the box are encouraged.

An environment that’s collaborative is generally also one that supports the mental well-being of staff members, and it does this in both direct and indirect ways. Directly, these teams will typically have policies and procedures in place around stress and mental health that team members can take advantage of. On the indirect side, a lot of stress levels in the workplace are associated with siloed working conditions or hierarchical structures. As these disappear in collaborative teams, their many negative effects disappear, too.

Tools and training for team unity

Like all areas of healthcare, unity involves consistency and ongoing learning. On the tools side, we have digital patient record systems that make things more streamlined, as well as easy and secure messaging apps and video conferencing software for communication. All of these tools work in unison to make a team more collaborative.

On the education and training side, there are regular workshops and seminars in the healthcare space focusing on important skills like communication, conflict resolution, cultural competency, and other key areas of teamwork. These group settings can be the perfect way to skill up in a specific area quickly. As technology evolves, many of these workshops may move online and present e-learning opportunities.

Simulation-based training and role-playing are another good idea. These activities allow teams to rehearse complex procedures or challenging patient scenarios in a safe environment before encountering  them in real life. Not only does this build the required skills, but it also helps develop crucial soft skills like leadership and empathy. Being able to master these types of situations before seeing them for real is extremely valuable.

Mentorship programs offer another avenue for growing unity among nursing teams. Pairing less experienced nurses with seasoned veterans allows for knowledge transfer that goes beyond clinical skills. It can lead to all sorts of wisdom being imparted about everything, from navigating interpersonal relationships within the team to managing stress levels during busy and high-pressure times.

Global health and unity

If we look at healthcare team unity from a global perspective, we will find many different strategies and challenges that vary widely. This is largely due to cultural influences and the different structures of international healthcare systems.

For example, some countries adopted the use of multidisciplinary teams in their healthcare systems a lot earlier than others. This approach encourages different medical professionals to work together towards a common goal: the patient’s well-being. If managed correctly, this strategy leads to greater collaboration among health workers and significantly improved patient outcomes.

On the other hand, some countries have deep-seated hierarchical structures within their healthcare systems. A clear pecking order exists among doctors, nurses, therapists, and other staff members, and it can impede effective communication and collaboration.

Cultural influences are another big factor in shaping team unity around the world. In many Latin American countries where family is central to society’s fabric, extended family often forms part of the care team. It can blur professional boundaries but can also be an important part of providing holistic patient care.

Healthcare and the future

Let’s wrap things up by speculating on the future of healthcare team collaboration. As we mentioned at the beginning, the healthcare industry is always changing in one way or another, and this will almost certainly continue. Like always, emerging trends, technology, and changing societal attitudes and expectations will play a part. Just look at the rise of telemedicine over the last few years and how that will change things for many people moving forward.

No matter what changes occur, the role of nursing leaders will remain important and is likely to expand. For this reason, they will need to stay current with technological advancements and anything else that can help grow team collaboration. Nursing leaders may even find themselves acting as bridges between technology experts and frontline healthcare providers.

Nursing leaders will also need to try and think in a forward-thinking manner. It’s impossible to predict the future, but creating an organizational culture that accepts adaptability and is willing to change when required could be extremely useful.

Resilience will continue to be important, and nursing leaders will be key to making sure their teams are resilient. Many things we’ve already spoken about will naturally help in this area, but keeping them in mind is a good idea.

The best way to think of nursing leaders is as the glue that binds healthcare teams together. For nursing teams to achieve great patient outcomes, they have to be united, and it starts with the leaders. It will not happen overnight, but strong and united teams are created through consistent effort.

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