Enhance These Skills to Promote Healthcare Employee Cooperation
Providing healthcare services that are both high in quality and safety requires that individuals in the profession work together as a team.1 Skills that can lead to a more collaborative team environment are those related to communication and teamwork. Here are five to consider that, if strengthened, could help promote greater cooperation among your healthcare staff.
Skill #1: Assertiveness
Research indicates that poor communication can lead to both adverse events and medical errors in patient care, yet most people in this profession are trained just once in an effort to develop their “speaking-up skills.”2
An assertive healthcare employee is willing to share their thoughts with colleagues and other staff if an element of a patient’s care doesn’t seem quite right, potentially preventing unintentional harm. An assertive healthcare employee is also willing to reaffirm with patients the importance of following a specific diagnostic or treatment protocol, encouraging them to follow the steps needed for a positive outcome.
Other benefits of being assertive are that it:3
- Improves self-esteem and self-confidence
- Strengthens decision-making skills
- Garners respect from others
- Bolsters job satisfaction
Some think of assertiveness as aggressiveness, but the two are not the same. You can be assertive while also being respectful of those around you, while aggressiveness doesn’t always contain this respect.
Communicating with respect can make the healthcare team stronger versus tearing it apart. How can you build assertiveness in healthcare staff?
Encouraging them to use “I” instead of “you” can help employees be assertive without coming across as blaming the person they’re speaking with. Additionally, if being assertive is new to the employee, practicing their response can help them feel more comfortable with this type of communication. Standing in an assertive posture, which includes standing upright and maintaining eye contact, can be beneficial as well.
Skill #2: Facilitation
On a basic level, facilitation means helping something to happen. In healthcare, a team member might facilitate the movement of a patient’s medical records from one office to another. Managers may also facilitate the dissemination of important information at department meetings.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) shares that there is evidence that facilitation in primary care practices can even help improve healthcare processes and outcomes.4
Facilitation improvements can be achieved through training. The AHRQ offers a variety of facilitation training modules healthcare practices can use to help team members develop this skill. These modules cover topics such as how to conduct effective meetings, practice assessment strategies, and ways to scale improvements. The AHRQ also offers a Practice Facilitation Handbook to help guide this process.
Skill #3: Critical Thinking
When working together, a team of critical thinkers has the ability to come up with creative and sometimes promising solutions. In healthcare specifically, critical thinking also contributes to fewer diagnostic errors, thereby reducing patient harm.5
Critical thinking often involves having a questioning mindset. Instead of taking things at face value, your staff may seek to understand why they occurred or how they occurred. Critical thinkers are also aware of their biases so they don’t inadvertently affect a situation or proposed response.
To build critical thinking skills in your healthcare staff, teach them to challenge their assumptions and encourage them to ask questions. Staying open-minded is also beneficial to critical thinking as it keeps the thinker from jumping to conclusions based on their experiences.
A fun exercise to build critical thinking is to come up with a topic and ask your employees to come up with as many questions surrounding it as possible. For example, you might designate breast cancer as a topic. Questions that would signal critical thinking might include:
- Why does this cancer appear in some patients and not others?
- What factors increase breast cancer risk and why?
- How can we better test for breast cancer?
- What are some lifestyle factors that may reduce cancer risk?
- What are a few ways to improve a patient's adherence to treatment protocol?
Skill #4: Team-Building
Engaging in team-building exercises can help promote a stronger, more cohesive healthcare team. Put another way, these exercises teach each individual member how to function as part of a collaborative unit.
A team-building exercise you can do before meetings is to pair employees together and ask them to come up with five to seven things they have in common. Another option is to blindfold a team and tell them to put a set of shapes in a certain order (the triangle goes after the circle which goes after the rectangle, for instance).
You can also take your team-building out of the office by sending employees to a fun night at a local escape room. In an escape room, everyone must work together to figure out the clues that allow them to find a way out.
Skill #5: Business Writing
Business writing is a communication skill used often in healthcare, such as when updating patient records, when writing post-treatment patient instructions, or when sharing information with other healthcare professionals via emails and memos. If any of these writings are not clear and comprehensive, errors and mistakes can ensue.
Healthcare administrators also benefit from having business writing skills. These skills can enhance the quality of their reports, influence decision-makers when requesting a change, and more.
When writing anything down, encourage your staff to look over what they wrote and make sure it is correct before submitting it. They might also have another employee read their writing to point out any areas that may be confusing or need additional clarification.
To boost this skill even more, employees may want to enroll in an online course. Coursera offers a free Business Writing course as part of its Effective Communication program. Or you could partner with a local educational institution and have an instructor provide some in-service training.
Helping your staff build these five skills can lead to a more collaborative healthcare team—a team that works together for the good of your practice and the patients it serves.
1 Rehnder KJ, et al. Associations Between a New Disruptive Behaviors Scale and Teamwork, Patient Safety, Work-Life Balance, Burnout, and Depression. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1553725019303927
2 Kim S, et al. Patient Safety Over Power Hierarchy: A Scoping Review of Healthcare Professionals’ Speaking-Up Skills Training. Journal for Healthcare Quality. https://journals.lww.com/jhqonline/Abstract/2020/10000/Patient_Safety_Over_Power_Hierarchy__A_Scoping.1.aspx?context=FeaturedArticles
3 Mayo Clinic. Being Assertive: Reduce Stress, Communicate Better. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/assertive/art-20044644
4 Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Delivering Primary Care Practice Facilitation. https://www.ahrq.gov/ncepcr/tools/transform-qi/deliver-facilitation.html
5 Royce C, Hayes M, Schwartzstein R. Teaching Critical Thinking: A Case for Instruction in Cognitive Biases to Reduce Diagnostic Errors and Improve Patient Safety. Academic Medicine. https://journals.lww.com/academicmedicine/fulltext/2019/02000/teaching_critical_thinking__a_case_for_instruction.20.aspx