The presented paper will describe a care improvement project that was carried out by an interprofessional team from a small psychiatric practice. The project involved the creation of a program for educating patients with substance use disorders. The paper will define the type and purpose of the team, describe its membership with attention paid to the importance of each discipline, and consider the advantages and disadvantages of using an interdisciplinary team in the project. Eventually, some conclusions will be offered; the paper will demonstrate that the specifics of the team and the contributions of its specialists were beneficial for the program, and the experience and its analysis were very valuable for the practicum student who was involved in it.
Type and Purpose of the Team
It should be pointed out that the team had existed before the project was launched. In general, it was a primary work team that served psychiatric patients. However, in the described case, it functioned as an ad hoc team since it was specifically assembled to address an individual issue (the lack of a suitable educational program). The fact that the team had already existed was beneficial because the members were already familiar with each other and with the idea of working together. New teams require some time to build trust and establish patterns of collaboration (White, Eklund, McNeal, Hochhalter, & Arroliga, 2018), but the described team had a significant advantage. However, the project was a new activity, and it defined the team’s purpose, which consisted of creating the necessary educational program for patients. The members were engaged in developing guidelines and learning materials, and their diverse interprofessional expertise was required to ensure the quality of the intervention.
The team included every professional from the practice; specifically, the nurse practitioner, psychiatrist, and psychologist were involved, as well as the nursing student. Because the nurse was the one who had proposed the project, she was viewed as the leader of the group. She practiced what could be called shared leadership, which is a specialist-approved approach for interprofessional teams nowadays (Forsyth & Mason, 2017). Specifically, the nurse was willing to provide the rest of the members with the opportunity to take the lead, especially when tasks and assignments were negotiated. However, she was still responsible for the majority of management-related duties, and she remained the leader of the team throughout the project.
The rest of the members provided their contributions, which were the product of their expertise. As a result, the roles of each discipline in the project need to be considered. The content of the program was determined by all four participants in a joint effort, during which they employed their knowledge of the studied condition. Clinical expertise is a crucial requirement for the described disciplines (Cusack, Killoury, & Nugent, 2017; Ratzliff, Norfleet, Chan, Raney, & Unützer, 2015). Recent articles on the topic of substance abuse were brought up as well, and they were predominantly supplied by the nurse, student, and psychologist, who utilized their ability to locate and analyze research findings. Such skills are generally necessary for healthcare professionals (Cusack et al., 2017). In addition, the nurse and student were the ones responsible for determining the best approaches to educating patients. For example, they were involved in checking the produced materials for accessibility and the use of understandable language, employing their knowledge of patient education requirements.
Moreover, the cohesion of the group was not just the result of the team existing for some time before the project. The leadership and support of the nurse can be viewed as a part of her disciplinary contribution (Cusack et al., 2017). Similarly, teamwork, which is a common requirement for different professions, including psychiatrists and nurses (Cusack et al., 2017; Ratzliff et al., 2015), was a major factor in ensuring the success of the project. Thus, the members made their discipline-specific contributions to the project, ensuring the ability of the team to function and achieve its goal. Therefore, the experience provided the student with an opportunity to observe an interdisciplinary team in action.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Using the Team
Multiple benefits were associated with employing an interprofessional team for the task. A major advantage was the contribution of different and well-informed perspectives on what the program should contain. As a result of their cooperation, the members were able to discuss and refine their ideas with other specialists. The diverse expertise helped the project; for example, the nurse proved to be exceptionally well-informed on the topic of approaches to educating patients, but the psychologist contributed very important handout ideas that were informed by cognitive-behavioral therapy. It is well-known that different healthcare professionals receive different training, which may affect their abilities in many ways, including negative ones (Foronda, MacWilliams, & McArthur, 2016). In the described case, the project benefited from the fact that it was carried out by an interprofessional team.
The concern of workload was also alleviated by the team’s involvement. Indeed, including four people in the group was a good idea since it helped to distribute the tasks needed for the project. However, this advantage was also connected to a certain disadvantage. Since the practice could not afford to reduce the working hours of its only specialists, an increase in the workload was experienced by all the members, especially the psychiatrist. Still, the team was compensated for the effort, and the members did not protest the arrangement. Also, the problem was managed by allocating the tasks while taking into account the availability of the specialists. The practicum student was assigned a substantial portion of related activities with the nurse’s support. Thus, this problem helped the student to practice multiple skills, especially those about the compilation of educational materials.
Naturally, the workload of the participants slowed the project down, but the issue had been taken into account during planning. Also, it might have been easier to organize the work of a smaller group. However, given the specifics of the practice, especially its size, the engagement of all its members was almost unavoidable. In the end, the benefits of using an interprofessional team were significant, and the disadvantages were handled accordingly.
The described project involved an interprofessional team that had already existed as a primary work team. As a result, the group managed to avoid the trust issues encountered by ad hoc teams, even though it functioned like one. The team was created to prepare an educational program for patients. In the process, the clinical knowledge and teamwork skills were the crucial contributions of the team’s psychiatrist and psychologist; the nurse and student employed their leadership abilities and understanding of patient education. The team was successful because of the diverse perspectives that were affected by discipline-specific training. While it was difficult to organize the members because of their workload, the project benefited from the involvement of an interprofessional team and managed to achieve its goals, providing the student with valuable experience.
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