The human body is comprised of a highly complex set of systems that the medical profession divides into specialized areas of study. The divided approach allows for in-depth knowledge about specific aspects of human health and disease and provides effective patient care within each medical discipline.

It’s a solid plan, but as medical knowledge and technology continue to advance, so does awareness of the complex connections among various illnesses and underlying conditions. In other words, the more medical professionals learn, the more advanced the issues become. In response, interdisciplinary nursing been propelled to the forefront of healthcare. 

Interdisciplinary Team vs Multidisciplinary Team

According to an article published by Human Resources for Health, “Interdisciplinary team work is a complex process in which different types of staff work together to share expertise, knowledge, and skills to impact patient care.” This means that a medical team comprised of professionals with diverse backgrounds treat the same patient by drawing from their own areas of expertise. This collaborative approach continues to grow in popularity within the medical profession. 

The more traditional method involves a multidisciplinary approach with a medical team whose members work independently within their own field to treat a single patient. The latter method has its merits, but its limitations often outweigh the benefits. 

As reported in the American Medical Association’s Journal of Ethics, 70-80% of serious medical errors are due to a lack of collaboration between medical staff. The healthcare industry is proactively responding to this unfavorable trend. Today, interdisciplinary team nursing is becoming the new standard in healthcare, preparing medical professionals for the complex challenges of modern medicine.

Benefits for Patients of Interdisciplinary Teams in Nursing

Promotes Professional Communication

Collaboration requires an effective communication system to update team members on changes, challenges, referrals, and recommendations. Successful interdisciplinary collaboration and communication in nursing brings continuity to patient care. The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCIB) reported that the average patient interacts with as many as 50 different employees during a four-day hospital stay. Various physicians, nurses, technicians, and other staff communicate with the patient and provide treatment or other pertinent information. 

Problems arise when patients are handed off from one medical professional to another outside of team collaboration. Most of these problems, such as medical professionals missing or misinterpreting critical information, receiving unclear orders, or overlooking unexpected changes in patient status, are rooted in poor communication. Established care teams and integrated communication processes provide the necessary infrastructure for error prevention. 

When healthcare professionals with various disciplines and roles comprise a team that fosters communication, the patient receives the benefit of having every relevant opinion or suggestion considered and assessed. For instance, the collaborative approach enables a physical therapist to discuss a patient’s unexpected symptoms with doctors and nurses on her care team. Such communication can dramatically impact results and improve patient care.

Promotes Patient-Focused Services

When patient care includes interdisciplinary nursing, the patient becomes the focus of attention as collaboration reinforces the goal and purpose of the team. Patients benefit most from this integrated effort to improve their treatments and manage their healthcare. When medical facilities refocus their approach and become more patient-centered, satisfaction rates among their patients dramatically increase. 

Wake Orthopaedics, based in North Carolina, implemented patient-centered practices, and after just one year, patient satisfaction shot from 80% to 93%. What made the difference? Patients believed their healthcare teams attentively addressed their medical needs, using all resources at their disposal. This should be the goal the of every medical professional, and interdisciplinary team nursing plays a central role in achieving it.

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Promotes Comprehensive Patient Care 

Interdisciplinary care relies on the team’s collective knowledge, which is grounded in diverse perspectives and professional experiences. When physicians and nurses address issues together, the team’s expertise is fully employed, generating solutions and feedback that otherwise wouldn’t exist. 

The result is comprehensive patient care, which the American Academy of Family Physicians defined as “. . . the prevention and management of multiple physical and emotional health problems of a patient over a period of time in relationship to family, life events and environment.”

Each medical professional brings another piece to the puzzle, creating a picture of the entire patient and bringing health-related connections to light. Interdisciplinary nursing cultivates this comprehensive approach and increases overall quality of patient care. 

Impact on the Nurse-Physician Relationship

Promotes Professional Interdependence 

Interdependence simply suggests that more is accomplished together rather than separately. Team members have individual roles and retain their autonomy, but their combined efforts bear more fruit than an individual acting alone. Interdisciplinary nursing encourages respect for individuality and the diverse roles of each team member while engaging on a professional level.

Trust levels soar among interdependent nurse-physician teams, because individuals and their contributions are inherently valued, creating a sense of acceptance and inclusion. In contrast, 22% of surveyed professionals reported that their lack of a voice in work-related decisions (not being heard) caused frustration and professional dissatisfaction. 

Medical staff operating in a culture of mutual respect within an interdisciplinary nursing team report higher levels of job satisfaction. They respond very favorable to an environment that encourages open participation, cultivates trust, and generates respect within nurse-physician relationships. 

Promotes Personal Development

As interdisciplinary teams in nursing routinely work together, they sharpen each other’s skills and challenge one another on a professional level. This interaction not only stimulates the personal development of individual team members, it also incites innovation, initiative, and professional engagement. When medical facilities employ interdisciplinary team nursing, they encourage respectful competition in nurse-physician relationships.

How to Improve Using the Interdisciplinary Approach

Every effective interdisciplinary nursing team is built on a foundation that:

  • Requires a leader who offers clear direction and vision for the team and makes certain every member is heard
  • Includes enough staff to ensure diversity of skills, personalities, and experience to meet comprehensive care standards
  • Incorporates a set of values that guide the team and are exemplified in the team leader

In addition, it’s imperative that teams regularly invest their time in team building and maintenance to review and sharpen interdisciplinary skills. Eventually, these practices will become second-nature and enhance their professional life. 

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