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Team-Building in Healthcare - Why it's Vital

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Teamwork is essential to healthcare, but bringing multidisciplinary groups together can be a challenging task.

This article discusses the reasons why team-building is in fact crucial to creating effective healthcare teams – and why team-building should be seen as an ongoing initiative.

Do Team-Building Exercises Actually Work?

As McEwan et al. (2017) state, there is ample research into the effectiveness of teamwork-centric strategies in the healthcare industry.

McEwan et al. found that improvements in teamwork have been observed as a result of training with a variety of ‘team types’. This includes new teams, intact teams, and those created for laboratory-based experiments. In sum, the extant empirical evidence to date appears to suggest that teams can be improved via teamwork training (McEwan 2017).

Overwhelming evidence supports the idea that active learning activities are more effective for professional growth than passive activities such as sitting in a lecture (McEwan et al. 2017).

Teamwork v Taskwork - What’s the Difference?

As distinct from taskwork, representative of what teams are doing, teamwork describes how team members are doing it with each other. (McEwan et al. 2017). Therefore, a lapse in communication has the capacity to undermine the individual capabilities of people within a team.

While taskwork is concerned with the way core technical competencies are carried out within a given professional context, teamwork refers to the variety of interactive and interdependent behavioural processes among team members that transforms team input into outcomes (McEwan et al. 2017).

An example of teamwork (with respective comparison to taskwork) is the seamless communication and collaboration between a nurse, surgeon, and anesthesiologist, rather than the technical competencies of these individual practitioners (McEwan et al. 2017).

Research from an assortment of studies indicates that teamwork is directly related to crucial team effectiveness variables, which include:

  • Team performance;
  • Group cohesion;
  • Collective efficacy; and
  • Job satisfaction.
  • (McEwan et al. 2017).
Where Do Team-Building Exercises Fit into This?

Well-executed, off-site activities have been shown to create familiarity among co-workers; foster opportunities for co-workers to become more motivated as a group, and may even help to break down any political and personal barriers that they might have (Firth 2015).

Team-building may be beneficial in more ways than one: it not only encourages rapport between staff but makes employees feel more engaged and connected to their place of work, leading to an overall higher degree of job satisfaction (Scudamore 2016).

A key takeaway from a team-building activity could be that it encourages and rewards problem-solving. Problem-solving is a daily requirement of the healthcare profession, and the absence of careful and considered problem-solving is perhaps more acutely felt than in other equally-demanding professions (Nursing Times 2015).

Team-building exercises have the potential to expose staff to new experiences that may encourage them beyond their usual way of seeing the world. Working together with other team members can inspire creativity and fresh ideas, which are invaluable to any workplace (Red Shoes PR 2013).

The Three Most Important Aspects of Team-Building in Healthcare Settings

Particularly for healthcare professionals: holidays, absence and shiftwork schedules can make it very difficult to bring together large numbers of people, discuss issues and share organisational information: this is where team-building can really make a difference (Mckeown 2015).

1. Combining Skills

Team cohesion is vital in carrying out effective healthcare – since health professionals work in multidisciplinary teams it is not always easy to tell where team boundaries should be drawn.

In healthcare, effective team-building occurs when every team member understands, believes in and works towards the shared purpose of caring, tending to and working for patients (Mckeown 2015).

2. Bridging Generational Divides

Today’s healthcare teams are often comprised of many different generations, and so carrying-out successful healthcare relies on these teams overcoming their potential differences (Moore et al. 2016).

Baby Boomers, Gen X and Millennials each have cultural values and traits, formed by the particular contexts of their youth, which also manifest in the workplace (Cox & Holloway 2011). Team-building is a way for people to connect across generations and learn from each other (Moore et al. 2016).

3. New Approaches

Organisations that promote team-building tend to improve problem-solving and morale, leading to healthier work environments. The flow-on effect of organisational effectiveness is new learning and openness (Moore et al. 2016).

Working collegially with a wide range of team members from various backgrounds promotes the acquisition of wisdom and original thinking in a demanding environment. This effective team culture can only enhance the way patients receive care (Gonzalez & Rolman 2010).

Beyond Team-Building

Cohesive teamwork is much more than the occasional team-building exercise, working as a team means that individuals are: comfortable with raising issues of concern; bringing their collective knowledge and wisdom to the table on issues that present in clinical practice; and how a team deals effectively with conflict and pressure; and are able to develop and maintain relationships (Moore et al. 2016).


Individual wellbeing is often linked to the wellbeing of the team; and teams are most productive where there is openness and trust and members are able to work to their own strengths (Moore et al. 2016).

It’s not only healthcare staff who benefit from this, but patients no doubt reap the rewards of more engaged, communicative and cohesive teams.

Additional Resources

Suggestions for team-building exercises can be found in the following links:

Physicians Practice 2013, ‘Nine Medical Practice Team Building Activities’: https://www.physicianspractice.com/staff/nine-medical-practice-team-building-activities

Career Trend 2018, ‘Team Building Activities’: https://careertrend.com/list-6579658-team-building-activities-nurses.html

  • Cox, J & Holloway, M 2011, Workshop on Knowledge Transfer in a Multigenerational Business Environment, Review of Management Innovation and Creativity, 4(10), 23–33.
  • Frith, B 2015, ‘Does Team Building Really Work? HR Magazine, viewed 26 June 2019, https://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/article-details/does-team-building-really-work
  • Gonzalez, CM Rolman S 2010, Building Blocks of Teamwork, Effective strategies can reduce turnover rates, improve group cohesion, and nurse satisfaction, Advanced Healthcare Network, retrieved from http://nursing.advanceweb.com/Article/Building-Blocks-of-Teamwork.aspx
  • Keast, K 2016, ‘Successful Team Building in Healthcare’ Healthtimes, viewed 26 June 2019, https://healthtimes.com.au/hub/nursing-careers/6/guidance/kk1/successful-team-building-in-he althcare/1705/
  • McEwan, D, Ruissen, GR, Eys, MA, Zumbo, BD and Beauchamp MR 2017, ‘The Effectiveness of Teamwork Training on Teamwork Behaviors and Team Performance: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Controlled Interventions’. PLoS ONE 12(1).
  • Moore, J, Everly, M and Bauer, R 2016, ‘Multigenerational Challenges: Team-Building for Positive Clinical Workforce Outcomes’, The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, Vol. 21, No. 2, Manuscript 3.
  • Nursing Times 2015, ‘Teambuilding 1: How to Build Effective Teams in Health Care', viewed 26 June 2019, https://www.nursingtimes.net/roles/nurse-managers/teambuilding-1-how-to-build-effective-teams-in-healthcare/ 5083723.article
  • Red Shoes PR 2013, ‘5 Reasons Why Team Building is Important’, viewed 26 June 2019, https://redshoespr.com/5-reasons-why-team-building-is-important/
  • Scudamore, B 2016, ‘Why Team Building is the Most Important Investment You’ll Make’ Forbes, viewed 26 June 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/brianscudamore/2016/03/09/why-team-building-is-the-most- important-investment-youll-make/#7568547d617f
Author Madeline Gilkes

Madeline Gilkes, CNS, RN, is a <a href="https://www.lifestylemedicine.org.au/fellows" target="_blank">Fellow of the Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine</a>. She focussed her master of healthcare leadership research project on health coaching for long-term weight loss in obese adults. In recent years, Madeline has found a passion for preventative nursing, transitioning from leadership roles (CNS Gerontology & Education, Clinical Facilitator) in hospital settings to primary healthcare nursing. Madeline’s vision is to implement lifestyle medicine to prevent and treat chronic conditions. Her brief research proposal for her PhD application involves Lifestyle Medicine for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Madeline is working towards Credentialled Diabetes Educator (CDE) status and primarily works in the role of Head of Nursing. Madeline’s philosophy focuses on using humanistic management, adult learning theories/evidence and self-efficacy theories and interventions to promote positive learning environments. In addition to her Master of Healthcare Leadership, Madeline has a Graduate Certificate in Diabetes Education & Management, Graduate Certificate in Adult & Vocational Education, Graduate Certificate of Aged Care Nursing, and a Bachelor of Nursing. See Educator Profile

Team-Building in Healthcare - Why it's Vital
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