Understanding Inter-Professional Leadership in Healthcare

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Brought to you by Felice J. Tilin, Ph.D., Program Director of the Online Master’s in Organization Development and Leadership Program at Saint Joseph’s University.

The healthcare industry is no stranger to teamwork and has increasingly utilized inter-professional teams. But what are inter-professional teams? Simply stated an inter-professional team is a group of people trained in different professional disciplines that need to work together on one team. The use of inter-professional teams has become extremely important in healthcare. Within the healthcare industry, there are times when the need arises for a diverse group of people to work together. If there is a solid understanding of inter-professional teamwork patients will be taken care of properly and safely. These teams are usually comprised of a physician, a nurse, marketing people, finance people, occupational therapists, social workers and so on. It can be quite a big mix of people, not only from different kinds of education but even different levels of education.

However, getting a group of individual with varying professional backgrounds can be problematic. One of the biggest challenges with these teams is that people are used to being experts in their own field. When you are used to being the expert you get used to people taking direction from you. Experts need to learn to become more open to learning, creating a learning environment, and enabling members of a team to feel safe. Team leadership becomes a major challenge, when everyone is seen as an expert. Another challenge is the use of jargon. For example, an accountant and a nurse can be trying to convey the same message but use completely different terms. So, agreeing on a common language is critical for the fast-paced healthcare environment.

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