Teamwork is a familiar word that is frequently bantered around in the workplace yet implementation of the concept is not always easy nor is it easy to do well. Unlike other species, humans think first about self; what’s best for me versus what’s best for the team. Indulge me and contemplate for a moment, a honeybee beehive. Honeybees are highly evolved and perform a variety of complex tasks in order to live and work together successfully which is really an excellent definition of teamwork. The honeybees’ job description is to serve the queen because the hive revolves around her, and she makes the hive “buzz” thus making the queen the most important occupant in the hive. “The three main categories of bees are queens, drones and workers. The queen is in charge and lays all the eggs that will later hatch. The drone mates with the queen and, get this, DIES in the process. Typically, no one is going to ask you to die in the office, but the point is sacrifice.”
Using the honeybee analogy, clarity regarding role responsibility is one element that supports teamwork. Second, the honeybees know their mission is to multiply and sustain the hive and protect the queen. Employees need to understand the mission and know what the plan is to accomplish the mission. Leaders are responsible to develop the step-by-step plan. Third, competency of each employee who has specific job duties must be assured. Oftentimes, guaranteeing that the necessary education to assure competency can be compromised due to financial constraints or personnel shortages which breaks the teamwork link because employees are unclear or are not adequately prepared for their duties. Fourth, understand and appreciate the uniqueness and value each productive member of the workforce brings to the workplace. Remembering that each person brings different values to the workplace due to cultural and generational diversity will help in developing a strong, productive team.
Teamwork in Health Care
Now that there is a basic understanding of how honeybees optimize teamwork, how can we create honeybees in health care? The simplest way can perhaps begin this way:
Queen = Patient, the focus of all our efforts to create the optimal patient experience
Drones = Work processes (some that should “die” because they are inefficient)
Workers = Service/Care Providers who have the goal of improving the patient’s health status
Antoon, F. Straight from the Hive: A Lesson in Teamwork. August 1, 2015
The team’s focus must be on the patient; the patient is the number one priority. When the team carries out their mission of assuring the optimal patient experience, teamwork will likely be optimized, retention will be high and employee satisfaction will be extraordinary, enjoyable, and productive.
Benefits of Teamwork
Optimal teamwork yields substantial benefits both for the organization and the team members.
- Patient safety is the number one priority.
- Improved patient outcomes due to every team member understanding the mission.
- Communication is maximized.
- There is no “I” in team.
- Decision-making and consensus regarding actions develops jointly.
- Resources are used effectively and efficiently and makes the best use of care coordination.
- Each team member is respected for their contribution to caring for the patient.
- Formal and informal leaders are identified.
- The patient is actively involved in their care.
- There is greater collaboration among disciplines which can reduce errors and readmissions.
Teamwork divides the task and multiplies the success.