Collaborating with Your Healthcare Colleagues
Published on the 06 September 2015
Published on the 06 September 2015
Healthcare is not a profession that occurs in a vacuum. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a group of professionals to make a patient well. With all of the different technicians and therapists, it may be difficult to know how to handle all of the people vying for your patient’s attention. Collaboration in healthcare is the best way to ensure that your patient receives the best possible care.
It may be difficult at times to work with all of the people available. You have transport, physical therapy, doctors, nurse practitioners, social workers, imaging techs, phlebotomists and many other professionals that come into contact with your patient. It is important to know what they do with your patient, what their opinions are, and then to communicate this information to the other health professionals that come into contact with your patient. Nurses are like the hub of a wheel with all of the other health professionals branching out from it. Professionals such as doctors, allied health professionals and co-workers are the most common healthcare workers a nurse has to collaborate with.
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Of all the professionals nurses need to collaborate with, doctors are not only the most common, but they can also be the most difficult. Many nurses are intimidated by doctors, especially when they are new. Many doctors are abusive toward nurses, and the reasons vary from doctor to doctor. Some don’t want to be bothered. Some feel nurses are less than important in the scheme of healthcare delivery. Some just have attitudes that keep them from relating civilly with anyone.
It should go without saying that abusive doctors should be reported to nursing supervision, but often they are not. Nurses are afraid of the repercussions of reporting, and they are told simply to get used to it. The secret to collaborating with doctors is to be assertive, but not aggressive. When you are assertive, you stand up for yourself, but you do not lose your temper or your professionalism. Instead of taking the abuse, you can say, “You can’t talk to me that way.” When you say this, you are not taking the abuse, and you are not losing your professionalism. The way to collaborate with doctors is to stand your ground, know that your opinion is just as important as theirs and be assertive when necessary.
Collaborating with allied health professionals is much easier than doctors, but the problem is that there are just so many of them. Sometimes nurses begin to feel like they are being bombarded by enquiries and people who want to get their hands on the patient. Social workers want to help with planning discharge. Imaging technicians want to ensure that you have the right IV access and that you get them the patient on time. Physical therapy wants to know if the patient is able to participate and when they are able to have their therapy. Orders can come in very quickly, and many people will be vying for your attention for all of the patients you are assigned to.
The trick to collaborating with allied health professionals is to keep organised. Make sure you know each patient and understand what the therapist is asking of you. If it isn’t a good time, you need to be assertive enough to tell them that they can come back. Be sure to tell them when a good time would be, so you can build good communication between departments. You may also want to know what each technician does, what they typically need and how your patient fits into their care plan.
Colleagues are the people you work with on a daily basis. They include your fellow nurses, unit secretaries and nursing assistants. Collaborating with your CNAs can severely impact how your shift goes. If you treat them poorly or with contempt, they are likely to resent you. The best way to collaborate with your CNAs is to have a meeting with them at the start of the shift. Ask them what their plan of attack is. Tell them what your plan is and what can be expected from the shift ahead. Treating them like a member of the team, instead of a necessary evil is the best way to collaborate with these important colleagues.
Your fellow nurses can also prove to be a challenge for collaboration. Some nurses don’t want to help others, and some are naturally inclined to jump right in. Dealing with co-workers requires tact because you will see them much more often than your other colleagues. Never confront a co-worker in the middle of the hall. Ask for help if you need it. They may not know you are struggling. Always help other nurses when you are done with your work. These are the best ways to make the unit feel like a team. It is often hard to get to that point, but once you do, the collaboration will be a great way to reduce stress on your unit.
Lynda is a registered nurse with three years experience on a busy surgical floor in a city hospital. She graduated with an Associates degree in Nursing from Mercyhurst College Northeast in 2007 and lives in Erie, Pennsylvania in the United States. In her work, she took care of patients post operatively from open heart surgery, immediately post-operatively from gastric bypass, gastric banding surgery and post abdominal surgery. She also dealt with patient populations that experienced active chest pain, congestive heart failure, end stage renal disease, uncontrolled diabetes and a variety of other chronic, mental and surgical conditions.