When we think of teamwork in long-term care, we envision a group of dedicated specialists working together to provide the best care for our residents. They read notes from other disciplines, bounce ideas off colleagues at the nursing station and convene care plan meetings.
In reality, teamwork in long-term care is much more complex.
Team members include not just clinical staff, residents and family members, but other workers who frequently have an influence on care, including housekeepers, laundry workers, maintenance staff and security guards. To enhance teamwork, these employees should be included in in-service trainings that might initially appear beyond their purview, such as customer service training and education about the medical and behavioral information they may need to relay to the nurses.
Teamwork is strengthened when team members understand the work of their colleagues and when it can best be utilized. For example, a lack of understanding of the difference between psychology and psychiatry services can cause delays in the receipt of needed treatment. Consider monthly training lunches that can boost morale, increase interdepartmental understanding and improve team functioning.
Team members also include those outside the facility, such as medical specialists, dialysis centers and hospitals, as well as consultants who provide onsite care such as psychiatrists, dentists, respiratory therapists and others.
Unifying all these team members requires uncomplicated and reliable conversation and correspondence. Communication can be enhanced in a variety of ways, including computerized records that eliminate paper consults and indecipherable handwriting, enhanced change of shift reports that include behavioral as well as physical information and a management commitment to staff retention to create the stability necessary for a solid team.
Taking it further
Once teamwork basics of role understanding, stable staffing and communication are covered, teams can begin to address teamwork at a deeper level.
Deep teamwork involves observing how the floor, unit or neighborhood is functioning as a whole over different shifts.
A team is not functioning well if a disruptive resident is keeping others awake at night or frightened during the day. Nor is it a high functioning team if two staff members are in a personal argument that’s obvious to all who walk onto the floor.
Deep teamwork calls for observing the interactions of the team and intervening as necessary to guide them back on track.