Abstract

Objectives

This study aimed to collect and analyse examples of poor teamwork between junior doctors and nurses; identify the teamwork failures contributing to poor team function; and ascertain if particular teamwork failures are associated with higher levels of risk to patients.

Design

Critical Incident Technique interviews were carried out with junior doctors and nurses.

Setting

Two teaching hospitals in the Republic of Ireland.

Participants

Junior doctors (n = 28) and nurses (n = 8) provided descriptions of scenarios of poor teamwork. The interviews were coded against a theoretical framework of healthcare team function by three psychologists and were also rated for risk to patients by four doctors and three nurses.

Results

A total of 33 of the scenarios met the inclusion criteria for analysis. A total of 63.6% (21/33) of the scenarios were attributed to ‘poor quality of collaboration’, 42.4% (14/33) to ‘poor leadership’ and 48.5% (16/33) to a ‘lack of coordination’. A total of 16 scenarios were classified as high risk and 17 scenarios were classified as medium risk. Significantly more of the high-risk scenarios were associated with a ‘lack of a shared mental model’ (62.5%, 10/16) and ‘poor communication’ (50.0%, 8/16) than the medium-risk scenarios (17.6%, 3/17 and 11.8%, 2/17, respectively).

Conclusion

Poor teamwork between junior doctors and nurses is common and places patients at considerable risk. Addressing this problem requires a well-designed complex intervention to develop the team skills of doctors and nurses and foster a clinical environment in which teamwork is supported.

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