Teamwork key to health care improvements

As we struggle as a society to deal with rising cost pressures, staff shortages and other challenges in our health care system, we need to develop better ways of delivering care – on the front lines – where it counts.

And there is increased recognition that no single medical professional or allied health practitioner has all the skills, expertise or time to deal with a patient’s total care needs.

Everyone – from physicians to nurses to dieticians – has a critical role to play in modern health care delivery.

That’s why health policy analysts have consistently identified teamwork and collaborative practice as a top priority in any strategy for successful health care reform.

One need look no further than a typical surgery to understand why this is true. From diagnosis to surgery preparation and post surgical care, to rehabilitation and nutrition support, to follow up treatment and home care – collaboration is key to healthy outcomes.

But modern solutions to health care’s challenges also depend on all practitioners working to the full potential of their education, training and experience.

Unfortunately, for many decades health care has been governed by a strict hierarchy, one that has been slow to adapt to the benefits of interdisciplinary team work and one that has resisted some professions working to their full scope of practice.

That means supporting RNs, LPNs, care aides, and others to work to their full potential within effective health care teams where all practitioners are recognized and respected for their skills and areas of expertise.

To ensure success, government must make sure appropriate training and education is readily available for those who are taking on new roles and responsibilities within the patient care team.

The Hospital Employees’ Union is working closely with government and its health authorities to develop policies that nurture collaboration and teamwork, deal with staff shortages and heavy work loads, and improve the quality of care for British Columbians.

During National Nursing Week we celebrate the team, and the teamwork, that can bring positive changes to health care delivery in our communities.

Judy Darcy is secretary-business manager of the Hospital Employees’ Union