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How Do You Define Your Team? Here's Why it Matters [Part 1]

By Megan Wittman

Who is your team?  And why does it matter?

Ask a room full of clinicians and healthcare leaders who their team is, and you will get a variety of responses:

  • Everybody who works for my ambulance company
  • The nurses, techs, and docs that work my shift in the ER
  • All the nurses on my unit
  • The trauma physicians
  • The cath team

There are many definitions of the word team; here are a few to consider:

“A small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and working approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.”  - “The Wisdom of Teams” by Katzenback and Smith 

“A group of people with a full set of complementary skills required to complete a task, job, or project.” - Business Directory 

But in healthcare, you can even ask 10 people who work together on the SAME “team,” and you are likely to get a different answer from most of them. Is this difference in definitions and perspectives a problem? Does it have impacts on the efficacy of the team? 

Think about it in terms of a football team that has recently been brought together. The running backs decide that they want the most possible running yards during the season, special teams are focused on getting the most field goals and kick-off returns, and the quarterback is trying to make his mark with the most passing yards. Despite having highly talented individual players with complementary skills, the team ends up with a mediocre season and poor morale. What is missing in what seems like a recipe for success?

Unfortunately, the missing ingredient can also be seen in healthcare:

Do you ever see clinicians working to care for a patient, all putting forth incredible talent and expertise, yet achieving less than stellar outcomes? Why do you think this is happening?

In both of these examples, the groups could improve their outcomes by defining the team, clarifying a UNIFIED purpose, and committing to working TOGETHER, over working to achieve individual aims. 

In part two, we’ll discuss tangible steps you can take to improve team dynamics and get better outcomes.  Meanwhile, take a moment to consider:

  • Who is your team?  
  • What is your team's purpose? 
ARTICLE CATEGORIES: Building Effective Teams
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Megan Wittman

Megan Wittman

Megan is a Client Development Specialist at Pulsara. Megan has also served as a Clinical Nurse, and has worked in healthcare education and organizational development.

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