Developing Collaborative Care Teams

Area Manager Jean Herauf, SLP has 30+ years’ experience, more than 20 of them with RehabVisions. Collaborative care between all therapy disciplines plays an important role in the success of her outpatient clinic in Dickinson, North Dakota. We asked her to share advice on developing and sustaining a collaborative model for interdisciplinary patient care teams.

Hire the Right Staff

This can be challenging, as it’s sometimes difficult to find staff, let alone those with the passion, spirit and communication skills we’re looking for. I’ve learned that it’s better to wait for the right person rather than bring someone on the team who disrupts the flow of trust and support.

Encourage Communication

Intentional collaboration in the form of patient staffings when multiple disciplines are involved is a beginning step toward strong communication. Encourage staff therapists to share what is happening with their patients day-to-day; new goals, suggestions for positioning, helpful cues, etc. This is an important step in collaborative care and can often be communicated when transitioning the patient from one discipline to the other. Also, if the patient has communicated something that should be shared with the other disciplines, make sure to pass the information along. Don’t assume they’ll share with the other therapists.

Promote an Environment of Support and Trust

Good staff willingly learn from and share with one another. They ask questions about each other’s patients, propose ideas, and suggest options for treatment. Our physical therapy team has a monthly article review over their lunch hour where one staff member shares information on a therapy technique they have recently researched. Promoting an environment of continuing education has proven a successful avenue to nurture supportive team environments.

Celebrate Success

Acknowledge that the stronger each therapist becomes in delivering care to their patients, the stronger the overall team becomes in delivering the best care possible. Acknowledge that each team member brings a set of skills that are equally important to the team. One might be more skilled in wound care and vestibular disorders, another in orthopedics and another in pediatrics. Like an orchestra, they all play to their strengths, and lean on each other if they need help with a particular patient.

Remember Why We Are Here

Occasionally there will be circumstances that throw the equilibrium of a team off track. During those times, remember why we went into this field in the first placeto help people. When schedules get busy and the push for productivity and keeping up with documentation seems daunting, it can be difficult to keep focused on quality care. At our monthly staff meetings, we have a standing agenda item for patient success stories, what’s going well, achievements and challenges.

It’s also important to have fun as a team. We have a Christmas party in the winter and a family picnic in the summer for staff to socialize outside the workplace. We also host activities within the workplace, such as a Super Bowl contest, to bring fun into the workday. Consider activities that aren’t disruptive to the day but increase employee engagement and workplace satisfaction.

These are just a few things you can do nurture a collaborative, interdisciplinary-care approach within your own therapy department.



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