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Stronger Together: The Value of a Team Nursing Model

If we all took a moment to reflect, most of us could likely recall a special nurse who went above and beyond to care for us or a loved one. Nurses are such a valuable asset to patient care, but unfortunately, many of these talented caregivers are choosing to leave the vocation due to burnout or other challenges of the profession.  

Fewer nurses mean staffing shortages which continue to challenge hospitals across the nation. In an era when hospital leaders are seeking ways to improve patient care and nurse engagement, many hospitals turn to collaboration as a key to success.

Enter, team nursing. Team nursing is a great strategy to help counteract these challenges and improve care delivery, nurse satisfaction, patient satisfaction, and overall care quality.

History & Background
Believe it or not, the concept of team nursing has been around since the WWII Era. Not entirely dissimilar from the COVID-19 crisis, hospitals and care facilities at that time were dealing with a rapid influx of patients and shortage of nurses to meet the demand. To remedy the situation, they needed a creative solution.

Their idea: Train nurse’s aides to help relieve nurses. By training them on specific duties, they were able to alleviate the workload of nurses by allowing them to focus solely on tasks that their specialized training and education prepared them to do. 

Today, a team nursing model typically includes a charge nurse (RN), primary nurse (RN), and ancillary personnel (often a CNA or similar nursing aide), working together to care for a group of patients. Although there are many variations from hospital to hospital, the overall strategy is the same: to find ways to work together to provide the highest level of quality care for patients.

For example, at Southwest Health System in Cortez, Colorado, each nurse is assigned specific patients, but every team member understands they are all partners with a common mission. When every person has the mindset to step in to help their teammates when needed, it’s no longer so much about the individual’s role but rather, how the team can all work together to provide the best care possible. For example, a nurse who is not “assigned” to a specific patient will help sign off on medication or handle issues that require two nurses. 

Benefits of a Team Nursing Model
There are several benefits of a team nursing model. 

Improves engagement: A collaborative model increases employee engagement and overall satisfaction. This is especially important nowadays with the low morale and staffing challenges some hospitals are facing. When nurses are more excited to come to work and enjoy working alongside their colleagues, everyone benefits.

Increases accountability: A team approach also results in increased accountability and lower turnover. No one wants to be the person on the group project who doesn’t do their part. When nurses are working as a team and their success depends on each other, they are more motivated to perform at their best. 

Boosts performance: Ultimately, a healthy team also drives nurse excellence and supports quality care delivery. One prime example is Southwest Health System in Cortez, Colo., where I served as the CNO. After the facility improved the team nursing approach, the nursing HCAHPS composite score increased from 74.2% to 83.7%.  

Best Practices
Thinking of implementing a team nursing plan or looking to improve yours? Here are some best practices to consider.

Delegate tasks: Nurses may need to delegate in order for a team nursing model to be successful. Nurses aren’t trained to work in teams, so it’s important to proactively teach them how to give responsibility to another caregiver or to the tech instead of feeling responsible for every task. 

Adapt to your unit’s needs: Every unit is different. To create a team nursing plan that works best for your facility, take some time to observe how the unit operates. How do the RNs and CNAs work together? Look at how each unit is laid out and assess the ratio of staff to patients and any other relevant patient trends. This information will help guide your strategy. 

Ask for input: Finally, ask for input from staff. They best know the ins and outs of the unit. What do they think could be working better? Engage them before making any changes, so you have their buy-in and support. You can even take this a step further and ask patients for their feedback. If they aren’t receiving quality care, they won’t be shy to let you know what could be better.

The philosophy behind team nursing is a relevant lesson we should all keep in mind: we are better when we work together. 

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