Why is Teamwork in Health Care Important?


Teamwork: Collaboration and enhanced communication

Interdisciplinary teamwork is an important model for delivering health care to patients.

Teamwork in health is defined as two or more people who interact interdependently with a common purpose, working toward measurable goals that benefit from leadership that maintains stability while encouraging honest discussion and problem solving [1] . Researchers have found that integrating services among many health providers is a key component to better treat undeserved populations and communities with limited access to health care [2].

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As the name implies, teamwork in health care employs the practices of collaboration and enhanced communication to expand the traditional roles of health workers and to make decisions as a unit that works toward a common goal [3]. The Canadian Health Services Research Foundation [4] found that teams function better when they have a clear purpose and implement protocols and procedures. Also important is the use of meetings and other communication methods to discuss patient results, share information, and debate suggestions to improve performance [5]. Teamwork and collaboration are especially essential to care of patients in a decentralized health system with many levels of health workers [2].

Health care, by definition, is a multidisciplinary profession in which doctors, nurses, health professionals from different specialties must work together, communicate often, and share resources[3]. Health teams are often made up of a variety of professionals – called cadres in health care – each with specialized knowledge and responsible for different tasks. These multidisciplinary teams are made up to solve health problems [4]. Successful health teams strive to understand the patient’s situation, ask probing questions about the problem, make an initial assessment and, after discussion, provide a recommendation6. Teams can also work together to develop health promotion for diverse communities and instill disease prevention behaviors amongst patients [2].

Why is teamwork important

Teamwork became an important health intervention for a number of reasons. First, clinical care is becoming more complex and specialized, forcing medical staffs to attempt complicated health services and quickly learn new methods. Aging populations, the increase of chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease have forced medical staffs to take a multidisciplinary approach to health care [6, 7]. In countries like the United States, medical teams must manage patients suffering from multiple health problems [8].

Other countries are also concerned with increasing access to health care for diverse populations. In Brazil, health teams train to intimately understand the needs of patients, but also of local communities and different cultures [2].

Secondly, researchers have found that working together reduces the number of medical errors and increases patient safety [9, 10]. Teamwork also reduces issues that lead to burnout [4]. No longer is one person responsible for the patient’s health; today, an entire team of health workers comes together to coordinate a patient’s well-being [11] . Health teams help break down hierarchy and centralized power of health organizations, giving more leverage to health workers [12].

Third, because teamwork is centered on solid communication, patients and their families sometimes feel more at ease and report they accept treatments and feel more satisfied with their health care [6, 7]. Health workers are also found to be more satisfied with their work [13]. A study found nurses who go through successful team building efforts are more satisfied with their work [13].

Teamwork and medical school

Teamwork and team training is now seen as essential part of preservice education. Because learning how to communicate effectively and work together can be time consuming, learning teamwork within the context of medical curricula will make students better prepared [14].

Learning the fundamentals of teamwork and collaborative care helps students better understand patient needs – especially in areas where social and health issues abound [14]. A program in India trains nurses working with HIV patients to work within many roles: counselor, lab technician and outreach worker [14].

The World Health Organization [11]. recommends that students begin using the principles of teamwork in their education immediately. What is helpful is that many programs teach problem-based learning, allowing students to work together, share information, and solve clinical problems as a team.


1. Salas E et al. "Toward an understanding of team performance and training." In: Sweeney RW, Salas E, eds. Teams: their training and performance. Norwood, NJ, Ablex, 1992.

2. Pinto, Rogério M., Melanie Wall, Gary Yu, Cláudia Penido, and Clecy Schmidt. "Primary care and public health services integration in Brazil’s unified health system." American journal of public health 102, no. 11 (2012): e69-e76.

3. Manser, T. "Teamwork and patient safety in dynamic domains of healthcare: a review of the literature." Acta Anaesthesiologica Scandinavica 53, no. 2 (2009): 143-151.
4. Canadian Health Services Research Foundation. "Teamwork in healthcare: promoting effective teamwork in healthcare in Canada. Policy synthesis and recommendations." In Teamwork in healthcare: promoting effective teamwork in healthcare in Canada. Policy synthesis and recommendations. CHSRF, 2006.
5. Kalisch, Beatrice J., Millie Curley, and Susan Stefanov. "An intervention to enhance nursing staff teamwork and engagement." Journal of Nursing Administration 37, no. 2 (2007): 77-84.
6. Mickan, Sharon M. "Evaluating the effectiveness of health care teams." Australian Health Review 29.2 (2005): 211-217.
7. Virani, Tazim. "Interprofessional collaborative teams." Canadian Health Services Research Foundation, 2012.
8. Starfield, Barbara. "Threads and yarns: weaving the tapestry of comorbidity." The Annals of Family Medicine 4, no. 2 (2006): 101-103.
9. Morey, John C., Robert Simon, Gregory D. Jay, Robert L. Wears, Mary Salisbury, Kimberly A. Dukes, and Scott D. Berns. "Error reduction and performance improvement in the emergency department through formal teamwork training: evaluation results of the MedTeams project." Health services research 37, no. 6 (2002): 1553-1581.
10. Baker, Jeff P, Sigrid Gustafson, Jeff Beaubien. "Medical teamwork and patient safety: the evidence-based relation." Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2005.
11. World Health Organization. "WHO patient safety curriculum guide for medical schools." (2009). Chapter Four: Topic 4: Being an effective team player
12. Carvalho, Samira de Fátima Cardeal Id, and Monica Chiodi Toscano de Campos. "The organizational culture of a Brazilian public hospital." Rev Esc Enferm USP 48, no. 2 (2014): 303-9.
13. Amos, Mary Anne, Jie Hu, and Charlotte A. Herrick. "The impact of team building on communication and job satisfaction of nursing staff." Journal for Nurses in Professional Development 21, no. 1 (2005): 10-16.
14. Thomas, Eric J. "Improving teamwork in healthcare: current approaches and the path forward." BMJ quality & safety 20, no. 8 (2011): 647-650.
15. World Health Organization. “Interprofessional collaborative practice in primary health care: nursing and midwifery perspectives: six case studies." Human Resources for Health Observer, 13. (2013).