AHEC of the Plains
Rewarding Interdisciplinary Teamwork in Health Care
Teamwork is key in most industries today, but especially important in health care, where
several health professionals are working toward a common goal: to cure a patient.
Interdisciplinary teamwork is essential to health care in order to provide the best patient
care. According to a study by J. Williamson et al, published in Anesthesia Intensive
Care, it is estimated that 70% to 80% of medical errors are due to breakdowns in
communication and teamwork. Understandably, hospitals must not only train their staff
to work as teams instead of independently, but also reward those staff people who
function well in a team. There is not much literature specifically related to recognition of
teamwork in health care, but many of the strategies which have been successful in
business settings can be applied to health care settings. The most successful programs
are often programs in which peers recognize each other, furthering the principles of
teamwork. The following are suggestions on how employers can institute Peer
Recognition programs which reward interdisciplinary teamwork:
Shining Star—Peer Recognition:
One of the easiest, cost effective and most valuable recognition programs for a
hospital to institute is peer recognition. This program is one of the most effective
recognition programs, because employees know best which teams communicate
well and perform at a high level and which do not. By empowering your
employees to take it upon themselves to celebrate a job done well, other
employees will be inspired to perform at a higher level also. This program is also
very effective because often supervisors do not witness teamwork successes first
hand. This program would recognize all members of a team as equals, providing
the opportunity for employees who often work behind the scenes or in less
“prestigious” disciplines to be rewarded.
Employees are provided with an unlimited supply of “Shining Star” forms to
write positive feedback about their coworkers. These forms can be delivered
through interoffice mail or hand delivered. Team members can write a note to
others on their team, thanking them for their extra effort. Shining Star forms
can be used to recognize a team after a particularly difficult shift, emergency,
or procedure, or simply when a team is “caught” doing a good job.
Employees can commend coworkers for behaviors such as: Demonstrating
friendly, caring service; showing flexibility, making safety a top priority,
excellent communication, etc.
At the end of the month, Shining Stars can be put on display on a prominent
bulletin board and/or each department can hold a celebration for recipients.
See “Motivating Your Workforce Toward High Performance” by Gregory P.
“In Appreciation” Newsletter Column—Peer and Supervisor Recognition
Again, peer recognition has proven to be more effective in the business world to
motivate employees. This theory can be easily applied to the health care world by
including a column written by employees about their coworkers. This is a more
publicized way to recognize teamwork and encourage it among all staff in your
Tie the “In Appreciation” column in with your Shining Star program. The
team with the most “stars” for the month is recognized. Include specific
names and titles of each team member, further highlighting the
interdisciplinary makeup of the team.
Supervisors can use this column as an outlet for recognizing outstanding
teamwork as well. A member of management might pick a memorable case in
which many people from several departments worked together to care for a
patient, highlighting those involved in the entire process from start to finish.
See “Rewarding Cross-Functional Teamwork” by Glenn M. Parker, published
in R&D Innovator Volume 3, Number 12 December 1994, #131.
Example: To all staff on third shift (Dave Matthews-EMT, Mike Johnson,
RN-ER, Laura James, RN-ER, Tim Thomas, MD-ER, Sue Brown-Admitting,
Jerri Jones, Tech-Surgery, Joe Hernandez, MD-Surgery, Cindy Roberts,
CRNA-Surgery, Tommie Hart, LVN-Med Surge, Mark Johnson, CNA- Med
Surge, Jane Dickson-Housekeeping, Richard Howard-Dietary)—On June 23,
several patients came to the hospital after a terrible car accident. Thanks for
working as a team to care for those injured. Through your dedication, all
patients survived and are making a fast recovery. The family sends their
thanks. Margie Meeks, RN, BSN-DON
Oftentimes, patients and/or family ask one employee to pass along their
thanks to the entire team that cared for the patient. This employee is often
either the most visible member of the team or the last employee to see the
patient receive these thanks from patients. Asking those employees to write a
quick note in the “In Appreciation” column is a great way to make sure that
all those involved in the process are recognized.
Ways for Supervisors to Recognize Interdisciplinary Teamwork:
Give verbal praise at staff meeting
Prominently displaying a poster with team photographs and accomplishments
Place a photograph and a story about the team in the community newspaper
Ask the CEO to attend a staff meeting to praise team’s performance
Send a letter to the CEO detailing the team’s work
Give each team member a t-shirt, hat, or mug (with his/her name, team’s name or
hospital’s name on it)
Ideas from “Rewarding Cross-Functional Teamwork” by Glenn M. Parker,
published in R&D Innovator Volume 3, Number 12 December 1994, #131.
Additional resources to assist employers in supporting teamwork in their facilities:
Kaissi, Amer and Trista Johnson. “Measuring Teamwork and Patient Safety
Attitudes of High-Risk Areas.” Nursing Economics 21(5), 211-218. 2003.
This article discusses how teamwork, or a lack of teamwork, effects patient care.
Authors pull statistics from various reports, offering administrators insight as to
how nurses feel about how well employees act as a team. The authors also
provide a sample “Teamwork and Patient Safety Attitudes Questionnaire” which
will help employers determine the attitudes in your specific hospital. This article
can be accessed through the internet by subscribing for Medscape.com, a free
service providing medical resources.
“4 Interdisciplinary Teamwork in Health Care”
This website offers a discussion on the importance of teamwork across disciplines
in health care, and breaks down the advantages for all involved, including:
patients, health care professionals, students and educators, and the health care
delivery system. Mostly geared towards teaching students about the importance
of interdisciplinary teamwork, and therefore can be applied to reinforcing those
principles in a hospital setting.
Heil, Gary, Tom Parker and Rick Tate. Excerpt from Leadership and the Customer
This excerpt discusses how an organization can prevent common pitfalls in
encouraging their employees to cooperate in teams. Corporations often offer
incentives for their employees to perform at a higher level, but those systems in
place often bring about internal competition between employees instead of
cooperation and teamwork. This article discusses how internal competition
inhibits teamwork, and then offers suggestions on how organizations can foster
teamwork instead competition. This excerpt is written from the perspective of
how corporations can improve productivity, but the principles discussed can be
easily applied to hospitals and health care.
“Interdisciplinary Health Care Teams: Models of Team Practice.”
This article specifically discusses interdisciplinary teams in health care settings.
Discussed is the Interdisciplinary Teamwork System Model by Drinka, including
methods, teambuilding, establishing goals, defining tasks and roles, pitfalls,
leadership, communication, conflict resolution, and possible outcomes.