Working as a team in the delivery of health services is a cornerstone of primary health care and one of the greatest benefits of working in a remote and rural context. Health teams are composed of members from different healthcare professions with specialised skills and expertise, who communicate and collaborate to plan and provide quality health services.
Models of Team Practice
Collaborative team practice can be articulated in a number of ways. It is important to understand the different models of team practice and the attributes and functions attached to each.
Multidisciplinary approaches utilise the skills and experience of individuals from different disciplines, with each discipline approaching the patient from their own perspective. Each team member conducted separate assessment, planning and provision with varying degrees of coordination. The team, directly or indirection, shares information regarding the patient and discuss future directions for patient care, and consequently relies on a good communication system (e.g. team meetings, case conferences etc). Essentially health professionals work in conjuction with each other, but act autonomously. This is also called multiprofessional practice.
Interdisciplinary approaches expand the multidisciplinary team through collaborative communication (rather then shared communication) and interdependent practice. Members contribute their own profession specific expertise, but collaborate to interpret findings and develop a care plan. Team members negotiate priorities and agree by consensus. The analogy of the hand is appropriate: individual digits of differing ability, function and dexterity work together to achieve more than the sum of the individual fingers (Crawford and Price, 2003). This is also called interprofessional practice.
For an example of an interprofessional approach, read the article Team Working: Palliative Care as a Model of Interprofessional Practice (Crawford & Price, 2003).
Transdisciplinary team approaches are the result of the evolution of the team approach. The transdisciplinary team model values the knowledge and skill of team members. Members of the transdisciplinary team share knowledge, skills, and responsibilities across traditional disciplinary boundaries in assessment, diagnosis, planning and implementation. Transdisciplinary teamwork involves a certain amount of boundary blurring between disciplines and implies cross-training and flexibility in accomplishing tasks. Transdisciplinary practice becomes especially relevant in the remote and rural context, where health professionals need to be more flexible about their roles and responsibilities.
Team Practice & You
- What types of health teams do you participate in? Who are the members of the team? Think about examples of multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary teams.
- How can you enhance your team practice in the provision of services to patients and the community?
- What skills do you need to develop to support enhanced team practice?
- Team Practice (Developing Your Skills)
- Enhancing Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Primary Health Care Initiative (Health Canada; 2006)
- Multidisciplinary Meeting Toolkit (Victoria Health; 2006)
- Interdisciplinary Health Care Team Practice (online training module) (Area Health Education Centre Columbia, Canada).