Understanding the importance of teamwork in nursing

Understanding the importance of teamwork in nursing

One of the most fundamental aspects of nursing practice – and health professionals more generally – is teamwork. This is because teamwork is an essential ingredient for creating effective, high-quality patient care and patient safety, and it also plays a pivotal role in shaping the work environment, job satisfaction, and overall well-being of nursing staff.

In fact, teamwork is embedded as a requirement under the Nursing & Midwifery Council’s professional standards of practice – known as The Code. For example, nurses are obliged to work cooperatively, which includes:

  • Respecting the skills, expertise, and contributions of colleagues.
  • Maintaining effective communication with colleagues.
  • Keeping colleagues informed when sharing the care of individuals.
  • Working with colleagues to evaluate the quality of the team’s work.
  • Working with colleagues to preserve the safety and people receiving care.
  • Sharing information to identify and reduce risk.
  • Supporting colleagues who are encountering health or performance problems.

Working cooperatively also means sharing skills, knowledge, and experience with other nurses, whether it’s through providing honest, accurate, and constructive feedback to other healthcare team members, or supporting students’ and colleagues’ learning “to help them develop their professional competence and confidence.”

What does teamwork in nursing look like?

Teamwork in nursing is a collaborative effort among various healthcare professionals to provide comprehensive patient care. It can involve registered nurses (RNs), team leaders, nurse managers, nurse educators, and other healthcare providers working together as a team to meet a patient's needs. 

In healthcare settings, teamwork includes several key components:

  • Effective communication. Effective communication is a pillar of nursing teamwork. Healthcare professionals must be able to convey information, ask questions, and share insights to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Communication skills are also critical in avoiding misunderstandings, which can lead to adverse events or medical errors.
  • Common goals. Nursing teams share a common goal, which is to provide the highest quality of care to their patients. All members of the team will work collaboratively towards achieving this goal, with each individual's role contributing to it in some capacity. 
  • Multidisciplinary teams. Teamwork in nursing often involves working within multidisciplinary teams. These teams include various healthcare professionals – such as physicians, pharmacists, physical therapists, and many more – who collaborate to address the healthcare needs of patients. 
  • Efficient resource management. Resource management is another aspect of nursing teamwork. It includes the effective allocation of staff, equipment, and time within nursing care teams to meet patient care demands, all while ensuring optimal quality of care.
  • Collaborative professional development. Nursing team members are expected to maintain high levels of competency in their respective roles and continuously strive for professional development to ensure the team is well-equipped to provide the best care possible. As outlined in their standards of practice, nurses are obliged to share their skills, knowledge, and experience with their colleagues.

The benefits of teamwork in nursing

Teamwork in nursing yields a huge range of benefits for both patients and the healthcare system as a whole. For example, benefits include increased:

  • Patient safety. Effective teamwork significantly reduces the risk of medical errors or poor patient outcomes. This is because when healthcare professionals collaborate and cross-check each other's work, the chances of missing crucial information or making mistakes decrease.
  • Quality patient care. Teamwork is integral to providing high-quality patient care because it enables healthcare providers to address the diverse needs of patients comprehensively.
  • Patient satisfaction. Patients are often more likely to have a positive experience when they perceive that their healthcare providers are working together efficiently.
  • Job satisfaction. Teamwork not only benefits patients but also has a positive impact on nurses and other healthcare professionals themselves. Working in a cohesive team can lead to higher job satisfaction among nursing staff, which in turn reduces burnout, improves staff retention rates, and makes nursing careers more attractive to potential recruits.
  • Professional development. Teamwork encourages professional development because it means healthcare professionals learn from each other and gain a broader perspective on patient care – and this environment of continuous learning enhances the quality of nursing practice.
  • Resource management. Effective teamwork often means that resources and other equipment is managed more efficiently, leading to cost savings and better healthcare system performance.

Teamwork in nursing: potential challenges

While teamwork is essential in nursing, it is not without its challenges. Some common issues that can arise include:

  • Communication breakdowns. Ineffective or poor communication can lead to misunderstandings and errors among colleagues. To address this, healthcare professionals should aim to develop strong communication and teamwork skills and foster an environment where open and clear communication is encouraged.
  • Interprofessional conflicts. In multidisciplinary teams, conflicts between healthcare professionals from different areas of the healthcare system can arise. For example, doctors and nurses may disagree on a patient’s treatment plan. To mitigate this, healthcare organisations should aim to create a culture of mutual respect, and will often provide training on conflict resolution as well.
  • Resource constraints. Shortages of staff members and resources can strain teamwork, which is partly why adequate staffing and resource management are essential for maintaining effective teamwork in nursing.
  • Stressful work environments. The work environment can significantly influence teamwork, with positive and supportive work cultures enhancing teamwork, and negative or stressful environments hindering it. Healthcare, by nature, often creates stressful situations, so it’s important that nurses and other healthcare professionals are supported with training and other initiatives to help manage stress and reduce anxiety.

Deliver better healthcare as part of a team

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