The office I work in is small: there’s a receptionist, two nurses, and a doctor. That’s it! It’s the four of us who keep the clinic going on a daily basis. We each embody different jobs so that everything runs smoothly.
Our receptionist does a multitude of tasks that include answering phone calls, scheduling appointments, organizing incoming medical records, and working with eager drug representatives who would like to supply a product for the office. My fellow nurse and I share in duties like performing allergy skin testing, administering pulmonary function testing, running oral food/medication challenges, and giving allergy shots. We also have specific jobs: for example, I organize all the biologic injections while my fellow nurse ensures that all of our office’s testing supplies and medications are up-to-date. The doctor’s primary role is to assess, diagnose, and treat the patients who come into our office.
Our office is able to function well because we work as a team. I know that performing my responsibilities well will benefit the entire office as a whole, and I believe my coworkers feel the same way. I believe the teamwork that we have is one of the main reasons that we were able to make it through the first month of establishing a brand new clinic built from ground zero. During the first few weeks of creating the clinic, I went home exhausted and worn out, but I returned the following day because I knew that I had a solid team that I could count on. They had my back, just as I had theirs.
Teamwork in a healthcare setting is huge. I just watched the TedTalk called “Health care should be a team sport” by Eric Dishman . Although it was published six years ago, it has some pretty interesting ideals about health care and how important teamwork is. Dishman does not go into every point that I will mention, but my ideas are inspired by his story and his thoughts.
The way I see it, there are three levels of teamwork that are necessary for health care workers to strive for.
1. Teamwork with the people you work with daily
There is a strong sense of teamwork within my new office. Everyone values the work that others in the office do, and when I know that my work is valued, I find it easier to continue giving my best effort at work. I trust that when a difficult situation arises at work, my coworkers will help me through it as best they can. Working in an allergy office, an emergency situation could happen at any time, and I can’t tell you how important it is to feel confident that everyone knows what to do when it is necessary to act quickly.
My friends who work in the hospital have told me that they feel like the staff on their unit or floor is family. While not all of my friends are in love with the specialty they work in, I’ve heard more than one of them say that they don’t mind staying on their assigned floor because the community is strong and supportive. A community of coworkers is invaluable.
2. Teamwork with other specialists and primary care providers
One of the biggest pet peeves that I have working in a new outpatient facility is when new patients come to our clinic without previous medical records. I can’t help but think to the patient, “How do you expect us to adequately treat you when we don’t have the big picture of your health and medical history?” Our office is specifically allergy, asthma, and immunology, so anything outside that realm is not the focus of our work, but without history or current medications, it’s dangerous to treat a patient! The field of allergy and asthma only looks at a few pieces of the human puzzle. Our specificity allows us to dig really deep, into immunoglobulins and histamine receptors, but our one perspective does not see the patient as a whole. This is where teamwork with other specialists and primary care providers is of utmost importance. Health care providers need to be able to provide continuous, multidisciplinary care between specialists so that patients receive the highest quality of care.
3. Teamwork with patients and families
The third level of teamwork can be built between health care providers and patients. From my experience, patients and patients’ families yearn to be able to care for themselves in the home environment. I have not met many patients who wish to be in the inpatient setting for the long term or who wish that they could pay for yet another medical visit to yet another specialist and pay yet another medical bill. No, that would be ridiculous. Our office works with patients who have lifelong conditions like food allergies or asthma and need to learn how to best manage those, so it’s all about teaming up with the patient to assist them in their quest for a meaningful life. It means educating patients and empowering them to care for their illness beyond the walls of the office.
Having healthy teamwork relationships with coworkers, other health care providers, and patients can be truly liberating for nurses. It’s a reminder that you are not alone in your job: you are assisting someone on their health journey, but you are only a part of the team involved. There are others involved in the process, and adequate communication between everyone will make a patient’s health goals even more within reach.
It’s just a suggestion, but if you are a nurse, I would recommend assessing how the teams that you are a part of through work are operating. From personal experience, I can say that looking at health care from a community, team-based approach makes me excited about working with patients towards their health goals. Working towards health for patients is a difficult and challenging road, and having a supportive network makes all the difference.
“Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.”