The importance of interdisciplinary teamwork in healthcare is too hard to ignore as hospitals and healthcare organizations deal with high patient volumes, scarce resources and challenging situations.
Through interdisciplinary teamwork, nurses, physicians and other healthcare professionals can prevent risk aversion and anxiety by sizing up the threat against the benefits for their patients.
This, in turn, leads to a more in-depth and holistic record of care, reduced length of stay and better patient outcomes. This is especially important in family nursing, wherein family nurse practitioners (FNP) deal with multiple patients, each with different health conditions that can involve various symptoms. By working together, FNPs and healthcare professionals can relieve the patient burden by coordinating complex healthcare issues and ensuring improved efficiency.
Before digging deep into how collaborative models promote interdisciplinary teamwork between FNPs and healthcare professionals, you might wonder what an interdisciplinary team is in healthcare. Generally, an interdisciplinary team is a group of individuals working together toward a common goal.
In healthcare circles, interdisciplinary teams are groups of medical professionals working collaboratively in treating a patient’s injury or illness. More often than not, the members of an interdisciplinary healthcare team are determined based on patient needs and their conditions. In most cases, the team comprises a larger group represented by many different disciplines, including any combination of primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, specialists, nursing partners, physical therapists and social workers.
However, it is worth noting that an interdisciplinary team is not only a group of experts implementing different treatments. Instead, they also offshoot one another’s expertise and actively coordinate to accomplish desired care objectives. Usually, an interdisciplinary team will consider the patient’s symptoms and needs, possible interventions, and the goals of each intervention in devising a coordinated care plan.
So, why are interdisciplinary teams important in healthcare? Multiple factors contribute to the rising need for interdisciplinary teams in healthcare, such as the increased specialization in medicine, a growing body of medical knowledge and an increasingly aging population. According to recent data, roughly 76 million individuals were born between 1946 and 1962. Known as the Baby Boomer generation, the oldest members of this era retired in 2012, while others are expected to follow suit in 2030.
Most people in this era will depend on healthcare programs once they retire. Moreover, these patients often require the care of multiple specialists to manage complex chronic issues and satisfy their medical needs. Interdisciplinary teams can resolve this fragmentation by providing holistic care and streamlining treatment.
Interdisciplinary healthcare teams can offer several benefits to patients and healthcare professionals alike. These benefits include the following:
Healthcare professionals in different fields can provide insightful findings into a patient’s condition. If an FNP, a physician and a team of nurses work collaboratively to treat a patient, each is likely to notice symptoms geared to their specialties. While they can treat patients individually, working together allows them to provide a comprehensive treatment that resolves the patient’s all-encompassing symptoms.
The potential for medical errors remains despite significant innovations in technology and care protocols in the healthcare sector. A recent study shows that healthcare mistakes cost roughly $20 billion annually, resulting in approximately 100,000 deaths. Often, these mistakes result from patients seeing multiple providers, each implementing a specialized treatment plan that might not consider diagnoses and prescriptions provided by another physician. Through interdisciplinary collaboration, healthcare teams can reduce error occurrence and establish a complete record that displays the patient’s symptoms holistically.
Healthcare professionals can perform accurate treatment and reduce the need for further testing or examinations by reducing errors. In doing so, they can reduce in-patient stays. This improved efficiency can benefit medical institutions and patients since the former can admit more new patients while the latter enjoys the reduced costs associated with shorter stays.
FNPs working in hospitals can operate within two principal models of care. This can be either through MRP or the collaborative practice model. FNPs and healthcare professionals can deliver well-integrated and coordinated care based on patient needs and can reduce care provision delays.
As mentioned above, interdisciplinary teamwork in healthcare often involves multiple medical professionals, which can be a breeding ground for conflict. Healthcare teams function most efficiently when each member, including doctors, FNPs and other healthcare professionals shares a common understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities.
Collaborative practice models foster interdisciplinary teamwork in healthcare by defining the roles and responsibilities of each member. It is not uncommon for healthcare professionals to wear different hats and complete work outside the initial range of their job description. While physicians can treat patients, not utilizing human resources effectively, especially when an FNP is present to evaluate patient symptoms from another angle, can be detrimental.
If that’s not bad enough, working individually can also lead to patients needing more clarity regarding their treatment plans. By clarifying everyone’s role in the treatment process, FNPs and healthcare professionals can encourage each other to articulate the expectations they hold of one another. Through this process, they can establish an end goal in their treatment plans and direct each team member in the right direction by informing the care they consider and implement.
Conflict is among the emerging industry challenges for professional medical workers. Often, conflicts occur because of changing priorities, lack of communication or differing expectations of a subject matter where individuals care about an outcome. Left unaddressed, conflicts can lead to heightened stress and anxiety, a toxic work environment and professional burnout.
So, how do you get rid of conflict? The reality is that you cannot. Disagreements are an inevitable, regular and healthy part of working as an FNP and relating to other healthcare professionals. While you cannot get rid of it, there are some ways to manage it. Thanks to collaborative practice models, FNPs can effectively anticipate and respond to conflict by redirecting it to more beneficial uses.
Conflicting expectations often influence team-based healthcare. Team members, such as FNPs, physicians, physical therapists and other healthcare professionals, have ways of treating patients, and sometimes their practices can clash. By employing collaborative practice models for team-based care, FNPs and other medical professionals can work together to achieve both goals for the organization and the patient’s benefit.
Communication is the bread and butter of interdisciplinary teamwork in healthcare. Without it, everything falls apart, leading to healthcare professionals administering the wrong treatment or giving incorrect medication. As a result, patients experience a subpar quality of care and compromise their safety.
One of the advantages of implementing collaborative practice models in healthcare is it encourages consistent open communication between the FNP and other healthcare professionals. This means constant sharing of treatment timelines and care goals associated with patients. In doing so, they can establish a healthy understanding of each member’s role in improving patient outcomes.
Furthermore, collaborative practice models enable empathy and understanding between each care team member. When the FNP and other healthcare professionals know where one is coming from, they are more likely to make allowances, help and communicate when required. Through this process, they can learn about similarities and differences in each discipline’s approaches, ask questions about others’ roles, and explain adequately how their actions will be implemented or rolled out.
When working with other healthcare professionals, transparency can mean life or death as an FNP. In the old days, collaboration in healthcare was often complex because of the historical nature of physician-directed care in which other members could not adequately offer their insights and opinions.
By implementing a collaborative practice model, FNPs can build trust and transparency with other healthcare professionals, allowing them to share in the care and decision-making. When team members are open and honest with each other, it can lead to collaboration, mutual trust and sharing of best practices throughout disciplines, ultimately benefiting patients.
What makes collaborative practice models advantageous to FNPs is that it eliminates complex barriers to internal transparency. This creates a no-blame culture with balanced accountability and continuous improvement. Through this process, FNPs and other medical professionals can work toward achieving similar goals and can create an open environment for discussion to improve patient outcomes.
Getting individuals with different experiences and backgrounds to work together is not always a guarantee of success. Several issues can result from this collaboration, especially if there is no framework or guidelines in place to organize the process. FNPs, physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals have their beliefs and vision on how to deal with specific situations.
Add to that the biases connected with each profession and a lack of knowledge of peers’ added value, and this collaboration can do more harm than good. Collaborative practice models can pave the way to knowledge-sharing and the exchange of expertise between the FNP and other care team members. This is especially critical since each professional comprehensively understands what they can bring and how they can help their peers with their expertise.
In doing so, healthcare organizations and hospitals can prevent burnout and ensure everyone in the care team is engaged in the treatment process. Long-hour shifts and being constantly on the front, along with high demands and expectations, can make healthcare personnel feel overwhelmed and burnt out. By applying a collaborative practice model to care, FNPs and other healthcare professionals can promote interdisciplinary teamwork across multiple care levels, eliminate communication silos and enhance productivity.
FNPs can offer meaningful contributions to interdisciplinary care, thanks to their ability to practice independently in some states and serve as team leaders and members.
Effective leadership is no longer a buzzword in healthcare circles. As the healthcare landscape undergoes radical shifts and changes, nurses continuously encounter innovative opportunities, challenges and practices. For an FNP to work effectively in an interdisciplinary team environment, they must learn to navigate these changes.
Fortunately, students working toward a MSN (family nurse practitioner) online at a prestigious academic institution, such as Texas Woman’s University, learn to engage with diverse healthcare providers to meet patient needs. In doing so, they can establish, employ and assess care in complex systems and promote collaboration, mutual respect and shared values among various stakeholders and clinicians.
FNPs learn the intricacies of different health delivery systems as part of their training. This way, they can implement their knowledge of organizational structures, resources, functions and practices to enhance healthcare delivery. Moreover, it empowers FNPs to provide preventive care and offers a more organized patient healthcare delivery that concentrates on engagement and patient-centered communication.
On top of that, it also allows them to evaluate the impact of healthcare delivery on patients, providers, other stakeholders and the environment. This is because part of learning the complexities of health delivery systems is negotiating with multiple stakeholders to influence healthcare change. Once you have a deep background in different healthcare delivery systems, FNPs can maintain collegial rapport since they can offer positive reinforcement and discuss differences in various disciplines’ expectations and duties.
FNPs can contribute to interdisciplinary care through their practice. Usually, FNPs can make independent decisions and act in alignment with their values while implementing professional expertise in the best interest of their patients. While numerous components of critical care need a doctor’s input, some states allow FNPs to be primary care providers.
This is especially critical nowadays as there is an underlying gap in primary care with the growing physician shortage. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, only 13% of medical school graduates pursue family medicine. By working autonomously, FNPs can provide family-centered care since what they do often mirrors the responsibilities of a primary care doctor.
An interdisciplinary approach to care is essential in implementing a treatment plan that meets the patient’s needs and goals. FNPs are geared with specific skills and abilities to initiate this approach and formulate a shared standardized plan that contributes to holistic and comprehensive person-centered care.