Feb 15, 2012

Team: What’s Your Definition?

Writing a job description was not exactly what I imagined myself to be doing in the first week of a clinical immersion. (To many, this might not sound too interesting or even relevant to clinical as a nursing student.) However, it proved to be an extremely valuable experience and inspired a new thought process on defining roles among health care staff.

The task for the meeting was to draft a clear description and distinction for both the nurse and medical assistant. It turned into 2.5 hours of constructive debate about how to word the already understood roles so that they would be concise, clear, and representative of the values of the medical home – a team-based health care delivery model.

What stuck with me the most from participating in the composition of the job descriptions was the meaning of the word “team.” In the medical home model, an interdisciplinary team approach is critical. (In fact, there is even a position for a Team Coordinator.) During the meeting, we were contemplating changing the name of the job title of a Registered Nurse to Team Nurse and from Medical Assistant to Medical Team Assistant. What would be the implications of renaming the role? What does the word “team” really mean?

As I am sure many of you are familiar with, the word “team” is used endlessly in coursework. My field of study, clinical nurse leader, in fact, represents and advocates the importance of an interdisciplinary team. But does everyone think of the word in the same way? This idea was discussed and will be revisited in an upcoming meeting. In the meantime, I asked around at the center, inquired with fellow peers, family, and friends to compile a mix of perspectives on how to define the word “team.” Here are some of the responses I received:
  • “A group of individuals working cohesively in order to achieve a common goal”
  • “A team is people who make each other better than they can be alone”
  • “A group of people working together toward a common goal, sharing resources, skills, and responsibility”
  • “A group of individuals working toward a common goal with various different perspectives and approaches to reach that goal”
  • “A group of people working for a common purpose”
  • “A group of peers working together”
Key words in these definitions were “together,” “achieve,” and “goal.” I was pleased to see how many people chose to use those exact words or something very similar. I think the members of this task force will agree the word “team” will be well received and a positive addition to the job title and description at the center.
I’d love to hear from some of you. What does the word “team” mean to you? Does your clinical site or past sites use the word “team” in everyday practice?

- Jessica Hatch, Clinical Nurse Leader Student, University of New Hampshire

Editor's Notes: Learn more about Jessica—and her clinical nurse leader role—in her interview from the 2011 IHI Open School Student Quality Leadership Academy.