Healthcare today is increasingly complex. Expert clinical knowledge is not enough to ensure effective patient care. Strong communication skills, respect, and good connections among team members are critical to preventing gaps in care delivery that could harm patients. In 2003, the Institute of Medicine identified working on interdisciplinary teams as one of five essential competencies each healthcare practitioner needs to deliver safe care in our complex healthcare system.

It is often the laboratory professional who is the first member of the team to recognize a key change in a patient’s condition that requires prompt attention and treatment. Knowing who is on your  team ensures  prompt  communication to the correct team member to provide needed care to the patient.

When time is critical to providing the right treatment interdisciplinary teamwork is essential. Consider a few of the common treatment protocols that laboratory professionals participate in:

  • Sepsis – time makes the difference between life or death
  • Stroke – time is brain
  • Cardiac event – time is muscle

Recognition of the roles and responsibilities of different  healthcare professionals helps us to know how and when they need  laboratory information to provide the right care for  patients we all serve. Benefits  of being a fully participating member on the healthcare team include:

  • Mutually respectful interactions.
  • Appreciation for what each team member contributes to patient care.
  • Good communication pathways leading to less frustration.
  • Opportunities to act on our clinical knowledge to improve patient care.

Studies have shown that health professions students who have been exposed to an inter-professional approach during their training are more likely to become collaborative team members. They are also more likely to show respect and positive attitudes toward other health professionals, and work together more effectively with improved patient outcomes. Introducing laboratory professional students to interdisciplinary team experiences during their training would be a great first step. Strengthening the culture in laboratories to encourage and applaud inter-professional teamwork can multiply the value that laboratory professionals contribute to better patient outcomes.

Baker DP, Gustafson S, Beaubien JM, et el. Medical teamwork and patient safety: the evidence-based relation. Washington, DC: American Institute for Research; 2003
Leonard MW, Frankel AS. Role of Effective Teamwork and Communication in Delivering Safe, High-Quality Care; Journal of Medicine 78:820-826, 2011.

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