Teamwork among health care providers optimizes patient care

medicine and nursing student consulting

Medicine and Nursing students practice communication and teamwork strategies within the curricula.

Poor communication and teamwork within a patient’s health care team can result in medical errors and poor quality of care. In fact, a study by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations reports ineffective communication is a major factor in 60 percent of sentinel events – events that can cause loss of life or limb.

To impart in students the vital importance of collaboration among health care professionals, the Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) College of Nursing teaches communication and teamwork strategies within its curricula.

“Research continually shows breakdowns in communication are a leading cause of medical errors and inefficient patient care,” said Jack Moreland, Ph.D., M.S.N., RN, TAMHSC-College of Nursing assistant professor. “Although each discipline is great at speaking the lingo in their field and carrying out individual tasks at hand, often times there is a disconnect among the specific health professions, and communication is not received by all.”

Dr. Moreland and Jodie Gary, Ph.D., RN, nursing assistant professor, recently completed the necessary education to become “Master Trainers” in TeamSTEPPS™ (Team Strategies and Tools to Enhance Performance and Patient Safety). This instructor-led program provides practical skills hospitals can utilize to strengthen collaboration among caregivers, resolve conflicts, improve information sharing, and ultimately, enhance patient care.

Developed by the U.S. Department of Defense in collaboration with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, TeamSTEPPS™ has been utilized by military organizations and the airline industry before recently transitioning to health care. It is composed of four teachable skills: leadership, mutual support, situation monitoring and communication through easy-to-follow modules.

With help from Drs. Moreland and Gary, the college is implementing the program in coursework for senior nursing students.

Students learn TeamSTEPPS™ strategies during class time and then put them to use in the clinical setting when communicating and interacting with faculty, fellow nursing students and registered nurses in local health care facilities.

medicine and nursing student work on manekin arm

TeamSTEPPS™ program provides practical skills hospitals can utilize to strengthen collaboration among caregivers, resolve conflicts, improve information sharing, and ultimately, enhance patient care.

“For many of our students, these tools and strategies have provided a solid base for how they communicate in any health care setting, something many nursing students and young nurses struggle with,” Dr. Moreland said.

Students also have found the tools and strategies in TeamSTEPPS™ help during group interactions in the classroom.

“I have heard from several students that communication in group activities was easier because everyone approached the communication from a shared experience with the tools of TeamSTEPPS™,” Dr. Moreland said.

This summer, the college will offer nursing students an elective course entirely devoted to communication, built from TeamSTEPPS™ content. A long-term goal is to collaborate with other medical professions to teach TeamSTEPPS™ across all TAMHSC disciplines.

“Communication and teamwork tools, like TeamSTEPPS™, provide powerful mechanisms organizations can utilize to improve the sharing of information across the entire health profession, ultimately reducing errors and leading to safer and more efficient patient care,” Dr. Moreland said. “After all, at the end of the day, patient safety is our top priority.”

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