The most effective way to address complex problems is bringing together different points of view. Health care has a never-ending flow of complex problems. In response, health care teams include distinct talent from diverse specialties in medicine, nursing, pharmacy, psychology, social work, and more. Ideally, a smooth integration of their expertise will produce accurate diagnosis, effective treatment, and though ongoing care.
But this is not an ideal world. Far from it. These teams work well enough to make a valuable contribution and to continue as an integral part of health care, but they have their challenges and limitations.
A lack of a common language imposes a limit. Each profession has its distinct words and phrases to talk about patients’ problems. Even when using common words, one profession may attach greater significance or charge to some words than does another profession.
Different views of time present another challenge. Some professions are on a fixed work schedule. Working beyond that schedule means overtime that a manager must approve. Others set their own schedule in a fee for service model. Everyone is busy. Treatment environments are often 24-7 operations in which each individual provider spends a limited amount of time. In short, getting together for face-to-face conversations is tough.
Each profession has its own idea of its expertise vis-à-vis the other professions. A problem arises when they disagree. A midwife may see her expertise as encompassing a wider range of birth situations than does the physician on the team. Unresolved conflicts on this point—scope of practice—creates ongoing tensions.
What to do:
- Manage the Jargon. A lot of the lingo is actually necessary to communicate precisely on complex issues. It is important to recognize that a complex team needs to develop its shared understanding of the words and phrases they are using.
- Excel at Non-synchronous Communication. With face-to-face meetings rare and unevenly attended, media, such as email and checklists, that span schedules are essential.
- Manage Boundaries. Team members have a responsibility to develop trusting relationships to assure their overall effectiveness. Resolving ongoing conflicts over professional turf is a top priority.