A mixed-methods study of the causes and impact of poor teamwork between junior doctors and nurses

O'Connor, Paul
O'Dea, Angela
Lydon, Sinéad
Offiah, Gozie
Scott, Jennifer
Flannery, Antoinette
Lang, Bronagh
Hoban, Anthony
Armstrong, Catherine
Byrne, Dara
O'Connor, Paul, O'Dea, Angela, Lydon, Sinéad, Offiah, Gozie, Scott, Jennifer, Flannery, Antoinette, Lang, Bronagh Hoban, Anthony, Armstrong, Catherine, Byrne, Dara. (2016). A mixed-methods study of the causes and impact of poor teamwork between junior doctors and nurses. International Journal for Quality in Health Care, 28(3), 339-345. doi:10.1093/intqhc/mzw036
Objectives This study aimed to collect and analyse examples of poor teamwork between junior doctors and nurses; identify the teamwork failures contributing to poor team function; and ascertain if particular teamwork failures are associated with higher levels of risk to patients. Design Critical Incident Technique interviews were carried out with junior doctors and nurses. Setting Two teaching hospitals in the Republic of Ireland. Participants Junior doctors (n = 28) and nurses (n = 8) provided descriptions of scenarios of poor teamwork. The interviews were coded against a theoretical framework of healthcare team function by three psychologists and were also rated for risk to patients by four doctors and three nurses. Results A total of 33 of the scenarios met the inclusion criteria for analysis. A total of 63.6% (21/33) of the scenarios were attributed to ‘poor quality of collaboration’, 42.4% (14/33) to ‘poor leadership’ and 48.5% (16/33) to a ‘lack of coordination’. A total of 16 scenarios were classified as high risk and 17 scenarios were classified as medium risk. Significantly more of the high-risk scenarios were associated with a ‘lack of a shared mental model’ (62.5%, 10/16) and ‘poor communication’ (50.0%, 8/16) than the medium-risk scenarios (17.6%, 3/17 and 11.8%, 2/17, respectively). Conclusion Poor teamwork between junior doctors and nurses is common and places patients at considerable risk. Addressing this problem requires a well-designed complex intervention to develop the team skills of doctors and nurses and foster a clinical environment in which teamwork is supported.
Oxford University Press (OUP)
Publisher DOI
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Ireland