Interprofessional Collaboration: a Vital Element of Patient Care

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In almost any capacity the demands of life can be both hectic and challenging. In light of this, the processes by which life is lived, shared and nurtured must involve organization, effective communication, and collaboration. This simple concept is true of life on almost any level but it is especially true when concerning healthcare. As such, it is important to look at the effectiveness of communication and collaboration within the health care system. This consideration is important because effective communication and collaboration within the health care system has a direct correlation and obvious potential impact on the quality of care provided to the patient. The College of Nurses of Ontario defines interprofessional collaboration as “working together with one or more members of the health care team who each make a unique contribution to achieving a common goal. Each individual contributes from within the limits of her/his scope of practice” (College of Nurses of Ontario, 2008, p 3.) Evidently, the dialogue that occurs between medical professionals and all those involved in patient care must be clear, productive and expressive of a vested interest in the patient. In short, patient care is larger than the individual and current healthcare provider as it must encompass the work, experience, observations and knowledge base of the many individuals who form the team of caregivers that work collectively to heal, sustain life and bring comfort. That being said, the collaborative relationship between physicians and nurses remains vital to the health care system as they link together to form a key partners in the care of the patient (McCallin, 2005). It is apparent that people who seek medical care do so with the belief that they will receive the best treatment available to them and that is comes from the best teams available. Considering that lives are on the line in these situations personality conflicts, communication barriers and unprofessional conduct are not acceptable; treatment must be fluid and reflective of genuine commitment to the patient. In fact, collaboration among health care professionals is an integral element of care and of the utmost importance in providing for patients in need (Taylor-Seehafer, 1998). To better understand the role of communication and collaboration one should look at an example of ineffective communication and interprofessional collaboration. Exploring the impact of miscommunication, blocked communication and lack of collaborative effort between physicians and nurses reveals the potential consequences a breakdown of collaboration and communication can have on patients, the nursing professional and health care system as a whole. To begin, the interprofessional event that was experienced was between a physician, nurse and nursing student that worked together in an outpatient cancer clinic. This interprofessional event illustrated ineffective communication and collaboration within the team setting. Specifically, after the team disagreed on a treatment plan for a cancer patient there was a breakdown in communication and collaboration between the health care providers that had an obvious impact on the patient. As caner is a specialized area the oncologist is partnered with a primary nurse that has an extensive background in oncology nursing. The dynamic between these two individuals is imperative as they provide advanced care to outpatients in the cancer clinics. This situation began with a 67 year old female who underwent surgery for a stage three colon cancer diagnosis and was referred to the oncologist’s team for assessment for adjuvant chemotherapy. As in standard practice the patient was interviewed by the nurse and nursing student. During this interview it was evident that the patient was presenting with a form of mild cognitive impairment. When asked questions pertaining to health, daily lifestyle and support systems that patient showed signs of memory impairment and impaired functional...
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