10 Things That Make a Great Health Care Team

Lene Andersen | June 6, 2017

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“Simple” is not a word usually associated with chronic illness, and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is no different. Getting to a place where you are as healthy as possible requires a number of health professionals in addition to your primary care physician. When these work together as a team, rather than separate and isolated specialties, it optimizes your health care and helps you live a better life with chronic illness. A great health care team can be defined by several characteristics.

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Common purpose

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The foundation of a great health care team is a common purpose. This applies to teams working in the same unit in a hospital, the same clinic, or providing health care for a particular patient. As you build your team, pay attention to each person’s ability to commit to the shared goal of taking care of you. If you feel the person is rushed, skips over details, or doesn’t pay enough attention to connect to the shared goal, it may be as a sign of them not being the right fit for your team.

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An essential quality of being a good team member is the ability to collaborate. Some people work better on their own, and some have developed egos the size of Mount Everest, which can get in the way of effective teamwork. On the other hand, team players are comfortable thinking in terms of we, rather than I, excel at listening effectively, and are willing to make compromises to attain shared goals and ideas.

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Any time there’s more than one person involved in dealing with a situation, good communication is a must. Members of your health care team have to be effective communicators with you and your support network, as well as each other. Look for someone who maintains eye contact, pays attention, understand your goals, and contacts you when required. Team members should have a system of regular consultation, as well as sharing updates and information about your case.

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Team members are flexible

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Chronic illness doesn’t only happen at the time of your regular appointments. Your health care team takes care of you every day, and they need to be available to respond to questions and concerns from you and others on your team. Does the office staff accommodate you? Can you reach the person via telephone or email and get a timely response? Can your family doctor consult with your specialist when required? If the answer to these questions is yes, you’ve got a keeper.

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Trust is a fundamental part of your relationship with the professionals who provide your care. When you’re able to trust your team, the quality of your care will increase, and you will be able to feel safe in their hands. Likewise, members of your health care team need to be able to trust each other to do what’s required. By leaning on each other, the members of your team will be able to give you much better care than they could individually.

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Clear roles

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When a team of multiple individuals are involved, it’s important that everyone is clear on who is responsible for which tasks. Having clarity on individual roles ensures that tests, treatments, and consultations take place when they need to and nothing falls through the cracks. If you feel sure about who you should approach in which situations, it is likely that your team members do too.

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A good sense of humor

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For many people, humor is an important part of how they deal with chronic illness. Being able to share that aspect of your life with your health care team can be a useful way of building relationships and trust. Much of life with illness is very serious. The ability to laugh, while taking the situation seriously, can make it easier to cope. When the members of your team appreciate a healthy laugh, the group will grow closer.

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Continuous learning

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Medicine is not a static field — the knowledge about health and chronic conditions is ever-evolving. The members of your team need to stay on top of what’s happening in their field so they can provide you with the latest information and treatments. Your own dedication to learning about your health will also contribute to the quality of the team. Educating yourself enables you to ask better questions and help direct your care so you can build the life you want to live.

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We often assume that all health professionals are ethical, but some may pay more attention to this aspect of their professionalism than others. Ethical behavior means that the person takes responsibility for themselves and their actions, as well as practicing with honesty and integrity. Most health care professions are governed by a code of conduct and it’s important that your team follows these rules.

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Good interpersonal skills

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The foundation for all the previous qualities we’ve discussed is good interpersonal skills. It’s important that each member of your team knows how to interact in a supportive and respectful manner with you, as well as other members of the team. Having good bedside (and deskside) manners will enable them to empathize with you, while building constructive relationships. Look for someone who is calm and attentive and whose interactions are shaped by compassion.

NEXT: 10 Things that Make Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis Easier