When I started at the Health Quality Council of Alberta (HQCA) in 2015, my director handed me a giant binder – 3 inches, D-ring – it was huge. I admit, I was somewhat overwhelmed. My first thought was, "do you want me to read that whole thing?"
The binder held information about a project involving TeamSTEPPS – a healthcare teamwork training program that provides a standard team-based approach to patient care. TeamSTEPPS is delivered by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) out of the United States.
Despite the initially feeling overwhelmed, my second gut reaction was: yes, I'm up for the challenge!
I went through the binder and searched the AHRQ website to try and get my head around what this TeamSTEPPS stuff was all about. I quickly realized that despite not knowing the "TeamSTEPPS" brand, I had been using the tools taught in the TeamSTEPPS program for years.
My first exposure to TeamSTEPPS was back when I took an Emergency Medical Responder course (about a million years ago), and they introduced us to SBAR (Situation Background Assessment Recommendation), a standardized, mnemonic, communication tool that allows a quick, concise transfer of information from one healthcare practitioner to another. At the time, I did not fully recognize how important this was. I was young, and quite frankly, very naïve.
As my career progressed, I started to recognize the power of this fundamental gem that I was taught so long ago. I noticed the silos among healthcare professions. Nurses speak "nurse," lab techs speak "lab tech," doctors speak "doctor" . . . you get the idea. The problem is that communication between professions is hindered; we are not all speaking the same language. And the REAL problem is that this is dangerous for patients.
Communication is only ONE of the teamwork skills that TeamSTEPPS addresses. Leadership, situational monitoring and mutual support are all equally important to successful teamwork and positive patient outcomes.
Fast forward to 2016. I received an email from our executive director drawing our attention to the work that the Canadian Patient Safety Institute (CPSI) had begun in TeamSTEPPS. I was thrilled to know that someone else was undertaking the implementation of TeamSTEPPS training into Canada. We quickly connected with CPSI, and are moving along in our teamwork journey as we "Canadian-ize" TeamSTEPPS content, together, as a team (see what I did there?).
There are numerous stories where if teamwork were improved, then the outcome for the patient may have been different. Of course there is no way to know what could have been, but there are pivotal moments in all tragic patient outcome stories where it is clear that working together as a team could have improved the situation. Yup. Teamwork is where it's at!
By Rhonda Shea BSc MA MLT
Lead, Collaborative Learning &Education
Health Quality Council of Alberta