Now more than ever, team building in healthcare is a critical part of every nursing home. In the aftermath of the COVID pandemic and amid a staffing crisis, many caregivers in long term care are feeling the strain of high nurse-to-patient ratios and too few staff members.
Long term care nurses in particular are stressed because they often work long and unsociable hours while caring for multiple residents. And this can lead to the staffing killer: burnout. Studies show that nurse burnout is most often caused by:
- Time-consuming administrative duties
- Emotional burdens
- Poor interactions with residents or their families
- A lack of personal accomplishment from working in a team that is neither supportive nor encouraging.
These issues (among others) are leading to a mass exodus of some much-needed caregivers in the industry.
Meanwhile, a long term care environment driven by teamwork, mutual support, and respect for staff members goes a long way toward retaining staff and enticing new nurses to a facility. That’s why facilities must:
- Foster a strong workplace culture
- Encourage communication
- Have an open-door policy
- Seek caregivers who genuinely have a passion for caring for others
Without a solid team culture to hold the team together, caregivers will feel the burden of their duties and seek employment in less stressful industries. That is why leadership must understand the importance of building a strong team culture with mutual respect and kindness towards each other so that teams are more unified and cooperative.
Why Team Building is Important in Long Term Care
The definition of a “team” is two or more people to interact interdependently toward a common goal, mission, or objective. Team members are usually assigned a specific role or function to join forces and efforts to complete any given task. But it’s never really that simple.
To better understand teamwork and team-building, we will discuss why team building is important in long term care and how an effective team impacts the quality of care in long term care facilities.
Having a solid team in long term care is essential because it improves:
- Clinical outcomes
- Increase workplace satisfaction
- Provide crucial peer support during stressful situations
- Reduce medical errors
- Reduce caregiver burnout
- Increases patient safety
Furthermore, team building in healthcare is essential because caregivers often work with several healthcare professionals across various clinical settings. This means that a single healthcare treatment can involve numerous medical professionals, making it imperative to coordinate and collaborate for the team to provide high-quality care.
However, building a solid team requires more than just coordinating goals and communicating with each other. The most effective teams have a collaborative mindset with core values that are inherent throughout the team.
Additionally, there are guiding principles that build and strengthen relationships within the team. Studies show that the most effective and high-functioning teams in health care are characterized by the following values and principles:
- Shared goals
- Clear roles
- Effective communication
- Measurable processes and outcomes
- Effective leadership
Suppose a team possesses all of these values and principles. In such cases, the team will likely improve the quality of care residents receive, strengthen the group’s bonds, inspire individual members, and improve the facility’s organizational processes with more efficient workflows.
Adopting a Collaborative Mindset
When long term care facilities adopt a collaborative mindset, there is mutual respect between coworkers and understanding of each other’s unique roles and contributions toward resident care. It is also imperative that team members are aware of each other’s actions and consequences and how they impact clinical outcomes.
Therefore, to establish a collaborative team mindset, facilities must focus on team integration, inclusiveness, and the mental well-being of all team members. Leaders and coworkers must also remember to suspend judgment when conflicts arise. Failure to do so can lead to negative assumptions about each other’s motives, feeling disconnected from each other’s actions and desired outcomes, and being suspicious or malicious towards each other’s intent.
In addition, facilities must foster and nurture a collaborative team mindset by allowing each team member to contribute and embrace the team by working towards a common goal and strengthening the team’s core values. A strong team culture will positively impact how teams communicate and interact in clinical settings, improving the healthcare environment, communication, and quality of care for residents.
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The 5 Pillars of Developing a Team Building Culture
In long term care settings, staff members may work closely with residents and their families for extended periods, which is why teamwork is crucial, as it can lead to improved patient outcomes, increased job satisfaction, and reduced turnover. Tested strategies to develop a team building culture can be reduced to these five pillars: transparency, confidence, trust, cohesion, and sacrifice.
Transparency, especially from leadership in a long term care facility, is at the core of team building in healthcare. Nurses and other long term care staff want to feel a sense of belonging and togetherness, so leaders must be open and transparent in their dealings with staff.
This means leaders need to overcome challenges to teamwork in healthcare by not making promises they cannot keep. In exceptional cases where a promise cannot be fulfilled, the leader should talk to the team and explain what went wrong. Doing this makes the staff feel more involved and that they matter, making them trust in leadership.
Additionally, leaders should also be receptive to feedback from their staff. With the current state of high patient-nurse ratios, some may just want to vent and express their dissatisfaction with the situation. Clearly, leaders who can listen, empathize and understand their staff’s concerns help boost transparency at the facility, thus encouraging staff to step forward at a future date and speak up should they notice something of importance.
Confident leaders inspire teamwork and stress why team building is important. Residents and their families can observe confidence in leadership when they visit a facility. Studies show that when residents and their families engage, communicate, and have more confidence in the facility’s leadership and team, there are fewer adverse events. Therefore, leadership should encourage the team to involve residents and their families by sharing additional information about how they design their care plans, convey the processes involved, and discuss testing results and the anticipated care outcomes.
A leader’s confidence is contagious, affecting the staff and even the residents. The impact on their team increases their work satisfaction, making them happier and more comfortable speaking their minds. Of course, one should not mistake confidence with arrogance. Arrogant leaders think that they are above doing specific tasks. In contrast, a confident leader is approachable, helpful, visible, and can be seen helping nurses and other staff care for residents in their facility. This is because leading by example is the most effective way of inspiring a team.
When transparent with their team, leaders demonstrate confidence in facing challenges and obstacles, resulting in others gaining trust in the organization’s processes. Additionally, leaders must establish trust in their staff members, which sends a positive message that the team can trust and rely on each other.
If a leader wants to establish trust in a team and enjoy the benefits of team building, then joining the staff on the floor is always a good idea. That leader can demonstrate humility and trust in the organization’s approach to care by listening and letting others guide them in what needs to be done for residents, as that is not what the leader does on a day-to-day basis. This mini-delegation and listening to nurses’ feedback goes a long way toward establishing a positive workplace environment.
Trust between leadership and team members makes for greater organizational cohesion, the “glue” that binds a team together. In a nursing home, a cohesive team works together to achieve organizational goals and objectives with each person doing their part. This means minimal supervision, clear communication, respect for each other, mutual support, and an understanding of the team’s core values. Cohesive teams produce a thriving workplace where people find joy and accomplishment in their work.
It is worth noting that cohesion only happens once trust has been established between team members. And as was previously stated, trust is something that takes time to build. Still, leaders must take the first step and move to establish cohesive teams in their facilities, as this will elevate the level of resident care, decrease turnover, and increase workplace satisfaction. At a time when nurses are in high demand, a cohesive and welcoming team can be used to attract more nurses to a facility.
Sacrifice cannot be demanded of others. In long-term care, the sacrifice occurs when team members value the kind of care provided and feel attached to residents and coworkers. Leaders can help inspire sacrifice by acting unselfishly themselves. For instance, a leader can sacrifice their time on a national holiday and spend it with residents instead. They can also offer time and fill labor shortages by performing non-medical tasks for residents.
A leader who consistently and sincerely makes meaningful sacrifices will eventually see others do the same. Of course, they should only ask for extra help politely and not pressure employees to go beyond their required responsibilities. Pressuring or guilt-tripping employees to make sacrifices will have the opposite effect, as it is a quick way to increase staff turnover at your facility.
The Importance of Team Building in Healthcare
Leadership needs to prioritize team building in healthcare for multiple reasons. Firstly, an effective team in sync with each other is more responsive and can adapt more quickly to sudden changes in residents’ conditions. By working as a team, clinical caregivers ensure that each treatment or procedure is conducted efficiently and without hiccups.
Secondly, to work well as a team means to communicate effectively with each other. This means that all healthcare professionals involved in a procedure or treatment, such as physicians, nurses, CNAs, and aides, have access to real-time updates and pass on important information to their co-workers. It cannot be stressed enough just how vital it is to have effective communication channels between all interdisciplinary team members. Therefore, leadership must ensure they develop and enhance the team’s communication skills during healthcare training.
Thirdly, leadership always needs to keep in mind that there is always room to learn more about what works in healthcare. Therefore, leadership should encourage the team to work closely with each other and to learn from their peers and other industry professionals. This hands-on approach to learning will enable caregivers to share ideas and experiences that will allow them to grow professionally with the team.