Collaborative Nursing – What You Need To Know

One of the main pillars of successful nursing is collaboration. Working among a busy healthcare team, it is essential to be able to collaborate effectively, taking into account other departments’ priorities, communicating efficiently and ensuring you give patients holistic care.

Collaborative nursing has become a hot topic of late in the healthcare sphere. But what affects a nurse’s ability to perform collaboratively, and why is it so vital?

Why is collaborative nursing important?

Essentially, collaboration comes down to making the healthcare system function more efficiently through teamwork. Inter-professional collaboration involves a number of commitments, from remembering to respect other team members’ perspectives on a case, to consulting on decision making and offering support where needed to better streamline and problem-solve.

There are many reasons why collaborative nursing is paramount, whether in a hospital or in general practice. As a study in the International Journal of Nursing Studies has demonstrated, patients receive better quality care, with more positive outcomes when nurses collaborate efficiently with other healthcare professionals.

The principle of collaboration is particularly important for nurses. As Heidi Sanborn, a clinical assistant professor at the Arizona State University College of Nursing and Healthcare Innovation, told Discover Nursing:

“Nursing has long been the champion profession of viewing the patient as a whole. We as nurses excel at seeing our patients within the context of their environment, whether that means family, community or other social identity. And we incorporate that view into our care plans through nursing diagnoses and the nursing process.”

Any nurses’ role will always be fundamentally holistic as nurses provide perhaps the most general form of care. From administering medicines and checking vital signs to ensuring patients are comfortable and their needs are heard, being a nurse is perhaps the most important role in terms of collaborative performance.

What affects nurses’ collaboration?

In the current healthcare climate, where nursing teams are dramatically understaffed and underfunded, with limited resources and increased demand, certain elements of quality care are liable to slip through the net.

According to Futurity, one major factor that may hinder a nurses’ ability to work collaboratively is overtime. A new study in the Journal of Nursing Administration suggests that overtime may reduce nurses’ collaboration with fellow nurses and doctors.

The research found that a third of nurses work longer hours than those scheduled for their shift, which is already on average 12 hours. This compounds their already-exerting schedule that includes irregular hours and long days, causing fatigue and sleep disturbance. The study claims that this has a marked effect on emotional, social and cognitive processing – leading to difficulties in collaborative scenarios.

Their analysis found that the average nursing shift was 11.88 hours long, and nurses worked on average 24 minutes longer than their scheduled shift, with 35 per cent of respondents saying the overtime they were expected to work was increasing throughout the year.

Whilst longer planned shifts did not seem to particularly affect collaboration, longer overtime shifts and more nurses working overtime did seem to hinder interpersonal collaboration.

What are the solutions?

So what is the solution to maintaining a collaborative nursing environment? Suggestions from the research emphasised minimising the use of overtime, which can be easily achieved by employing out-of-hours healthcare professionals to cover any deficit in staffing. Many nurses experiencing the stresses of overtime may well decide to pursue out of hours nursing work, with more freedom and work-life balance.

Other suggested steps including providing fatigue management training, and helping nurses, doctors and other members of the healthcare team to communicate effectively. Of course, management plays a large role in this too.

Discover Nursing also stresses the importance of multidisciplinary rounds – interprofessional meetings to discuss patient care. They suggest that this should be present everywhere from the bedside to the boardroom.

In addition, as healthcare gains access to more and more technological tools, these can also provide a platform for improvements. As The Nursing Times reports, new digital patient flow management systems could pose one such solution. The system would be helping to alleviate the administrative load onward nurses and allow data to be used by all relevant healthcare practitioners, from porters to consultants, pharmacists and carers.

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