Handbook of Health Communication

By Teresa L. Thompson; Alicia M. Dorsey et al. | Go to book overview

17
Groups and Teams in Health
Care: Communication
and Effectiveness
Marshall Scott Poole
Texas A&M University
Kevin Real
University of Kentucky

INTRODUCTION

Health care teams have played an important role in patient care for nearly 100 years (Brown, 1982; R. N. Wilson, 1954). The “team imperative” has waxed steadily stronger over the past 40 years owing to the ever increasing complexity of medical technology and treatments, the burgeoning specialization of medical professions, the desire to address the many facets of patient care, the growing power of regulatory and certification agencies, and the move to managed care and integrated health care systems. Rundall and Hetherington (1988) noted that “it is difficult to think of a substantial task within our modern health care service organizations that does not require a team, or work group, for its completion” (p. 188).

However, despite the consistent and sometimes effusive praise for the team concept and despite numerous exhortations to utilize teams for patient care, practice often belies the rhetoric. The National Health Service of England (1993) quoted in Couchman (1995) published a report that observed that teamwork is “more easily talked about and aspired to than achieved. Rigid role demarcation, tradition, vested professional interest, poor communications leading to confusion and misunderstandings about responsibilities, have all been blamed for lack of progress” (quoted in Couchman, 1995, p. 32). In the United States, Banta and Fox (1972) concluded from a study of interdisciplinary health care teams in poverty settings that “teams did not function as they had been envisioned. The participants were too diverse and too unfamiliar to each other for the teams to function ideally” (p. 697).

These observations reflect the variability in health care team functioning that we observed in our literature review. Merely setting up teams and encouraging teamwork is

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