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Team Building in Nursing

:      Kathy Falkenhagen, RN, BSN, MS

Section 1     Need for Teams in the Workplace

The workforce of the future requires a new way of leading. Advances in communication, transportation, and technology have helped create a global economy that can bridge cultural gaps and move ideas foreword. The team building concept has been recognized as playing a principal role in that effort.

The top down, chain of command style of management past found in the bureaucratic past, is out. Self-directed and self-managed teams will move into the forefront of many organizations.

Today’s manager is challenged to involve the staff members and encourage participation. That doesn’t mean organizations no longer need managers or leaders. In fact, good managers and successful leadership are primary ingredients for making teams work.

The manager will further become a visionary designer. Together with the team members, the challenge for the manager will evolve in becoming committed to designing the future by determining the vision, purpose and core values of the team itself.

Even though staff members in every organization may be known for high commitment and satisfied patients, there is a new focus on improving the quality and efficiency of the patient care services being delivered. That concept is again being defined as building effective teams in the workplace.

 In health care arenas everywhere, teams are taking on broader and more significant responsibilities. Team members are assuming higher levels of authority and challenges for their work than ever before. Teams are needed to solve problems, achieve results, provide cost-effective excellence and reduce inventory.

 All of these efforts are expected in changing workplaces while still maintaining the same, if not a higher level of patient care. Organizations are successfully meeting the competitiveness challenge with a significant shift toward teams. Teams do pay off.

Traditional work practices have slowed down organizations and often made them inflexible, therefore making teams a viable option for the future. Teams will become the natural building clocks of organizational growth focusing on performance and prosperity in the future.

New technologies, new worker expectations and new customer demands require speed, quality, and agility. As new technologies are developed, teams encompass a combination of skills, experiences and judgements to deliver tangible results.

Teams are offering a cost-effective way to increase productivity by increasing efficiency and improving quality. They are more than the latest buzzword in nursing. They also have the potential to increase staff member satisfaction and increase their commitment to the workplace.

 Today, more than ever, every staff member is being asked to take an active role in the quality management of the organization. To accomplish this, how staff members work together as a team, how decisions are made, and how conflict is handled, will be a key focus of future successes.

All work settings have a culture, which is the unique environment for the workplace. This culture includes the physical setting, management philosophy and rules for conduct and other activity. So, how does the culture affect teams?

In nursing, the work of managing in this culture occurs in ongoing communications, usually with small groups or individual staff members. Therefore, a team can be considered a group of staff members who perform the work of an organization to achieve that organization’s goals.

Speed. Simplicity. Self-confidence. These are all qualities that teams possess.  Team building has the potential to grow a work ethic that can enhance the staff member’s strengths and unleash and liberate the creativity and productive energy that resides in every work arena.

How Values Affect Teamwork 

                When we talk about improving productivity, quality and work habits in an organization, we usually sit down and make a list of the quickest and most powerful ways to make them happen. Another way to change things for the better is to recruit exceptionally talented staff members and train them to become a team!

How people interact and the traditional way things are accomplished in an organization becomes its value system or culture. Older and more senior staff members are able to recite the same “reasons” why something new can’t be done while rationalizing the status quo.

As a team member, it is essential to establish where you actually are in your value system determine how to best interact in the workplace. This is as important as knowing the business strategy for where the organization and team is headed.

            In order for a system wide change to take place, the values that affect individuals and teamwork can become very important. The values and culture of an organization need to be strong enough to pull great staff members off the track of the same old way of doing things so that change can be realized. Resources need to be allocated to deal with the status quo and entrenched organizational habits of the organization and its staff members.

Purpose of the Course 

The purpose of the course is to provide nurse’s in any clinical setting with a straight-forward practical inside look at what the team building concept is all about and how to foster it in any environment. The purpose of team building is to solve team problems. Whether a particular nurse manages the team or works on a specific team, it is important to know how teams operate and what it takes to make them operate well.

This course will examine those issues and suggest strategies to deal with team challenges. Demonstrated throughout the text will be ideas that can trigger new thoughts and directions. Illustrated will be effective methods, principles and concepts for unleashing the potential of teams in any clinical setting.

There also will be targeted key skills and methods for creating the conditions for success in your work through others as teams are formed and functioning. In today’s health care arena, no one can be expected to know how to do everything in the best way possible. Therefore, interdependence of staff members through team building efforts guarantees quality improvement and patient satisfaction in all areas of nursing.

The process of forming a competent and effective team is a growth journey. The process will become ongoing and unique to each clinical setting, work culture and organization. This course was created to help facilitate that process and support nurse’s in their effort to create and build effective teams.

In compiling the information in this course, there will be a brief introduction to the subject of team building, followed by related chapters. A glossary of terms used, bibliography and references are listed to stimulate further self-study.