Collaboration is known to be an integral aspect of the nursing profession. However, despite the benefits of collaboration, we oftentimes fail to put it into practice. Though we learned in nursing school that it leads to positive patient outcome, it seems that we do not give priority on this aspect of healthcare.
Before we discuss the process of collaboration, we have to understand its benefits. First, in view of the fact that it allows a multidisciplinary approach in patient care, we can expect that it leads to positive patient outcome. Why? Because it allows each member of the health team to utilize his expertise.
Hence, various but specific approaches are utilized. For example, if a patient receives food via nasogastric tube, meal planning is not done by the nurse alone because the dietitian knows more about what specific type and amount of feeding is suited for the patient’s condition and the physician knows when should nurses withhold and what medications should be included in the feeding.
As it improves patient outcome, length of hospital stay and amount of hospital expenses are expected to decrease. Hence, it does not merely promote teamwork among health team members. Instead, collaboration also contributes to patient welfare.
Collaboration involves planning and decision-making to solve problems. With this, interpersonal relationship plays a significant role in this situation. Each member of the medical team is expected to understand the similarities and differences of other members. As a nurse, you should learn to listen to the opinion of others before you say what is on your mind. Through this, everybody will be given the chance to speak. Hence, harmonious relationship will be established.
Some of us might consider differences as a hindrance to collaboration. Differences may be that of our culture, values and belief system. However, this is not the case.
Cultural differences give us an opportunity to learn more. For example, if you are a Christian and you have a colleague who is a Muslim, you may ask for your colleague’s help about Muslim traditions and beliefs to help you understand the decisions and preferences of your Muslim patient regarding his treatment. The same thing goes with your colleague. He may ask you about Christian beliefs to help him know how to deal with a Christian patient. Hence, in this sense, cultural differences drive a collaborative effort between you and your colleague.
On the other hand, before you engage in a conversation with the team, there are several things about yourself that you have to be aware of. You may consider some of these tips:
- You have to know who you are as part of the team. You are a nurse, not a doctor nor a dietitian. Know your limits as you speak out.
- Be aware of what you believe in as well as your positive and negative attitudes. If you know that you are sensitive or hot-tempered, you have to learn how to control your feelings. This will help you how to positively deal with the ideas given by other members of the team.
- If you know that you do not know, just accept it. Never pretend that you are knowledgeable about it and never hesitate to ask. Remember that your profession is still a continuous process of learning. Learning does not stop after you graduated from nursing school and after you have passed the licensure examination. There are still a lot of things to know and discover.
- Consider diversity as an advantage. You have to understand that men are task-oriented. Hence, they like to do things instead of explaining it. On the other hand, women are more relationship-oriented. Hence, it is easier for them to interact with patients. Use these differences to enhance the quality of patient care.
- Conflicts should never end a multidisciplinary conversation. Instead, it should lead to a deeper conversation to further gain a thorough understanding about the topic discussed. By this time, exchange of ideas will be more spontaneous which may result to the development of a better approach in patient care.
- Never let hierarchy rule the flow of conversation. Everyone should be given equal chance to speak. It does not necessarily mean that though a physician is considered as the captain of the team, a nurse will not have the chance to verbalize his thoughts. Thus, it would be better if each opinion is considered. However, there are some instances that power should be practiced in order to come up with a final and sound decision.
- As a part of the team, you should also weigh the situation before you choose between autonomy and collaboration. There are some situations where you can solve it by yourself and there are also some situations where you need to collaborate with other members especially with the physician.
Through this, you will be able to develop critical thinking skills as you deal with complex situations where you are required to make a decision for the welfare of your patient.