Top Nursing Team Building Strategies

A group of nurses putting their hands in for a cheer.
A group of nurses putting their hands in for a cheer.

Nursing isn’t a solitary profession — and for good reason. Today’s nursing standards focus on providing holistic care, meaning that the patients’ physical, emotional and spiritual needs are considered. Strong teamwork is important to facilitate effective holistic nursing care. Nurses collaborate with many types of healthcare professionals including physicians, therapists, dietitians and social workers. However, it’s just as important that nurses can work well with other nurses on the team to provide optimal patient care.

Nurses develop their teamwork skills through practice; experience; team-building activities; and higher education, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). In addition, numerous proven strategies for team building in nursing exist, allowing nurses and nurse leaders to create cohesion and shared purpose.

Importance of Teamwork in Nursing

Teamwork is the result of a shared sense of responsibility and accountability for patient care and patient safety. A lack of teamwork can have dire consequences in healthcare and may lead to medical errors, near misses and “never events” due to poor coordination and communication between team members.

Strong teamwork in nursing leads to better patient outcomes, better-coordinated care, fewer errors and higher job satisfaction for nurses. Higher levels of teamwork in the acute care hospital setting have also been noted to improve nurses’ job satisfaction. Better job satisfaction means lower levels of nurse burnout and better staff retention.

How to Promote Teamwork in Nursing 

Trust, collaboration and respect are key aspects of a strong team. Promoting each of these characteristics helps improve teamwork in nursing. If a team is lacking strength in one area, the other areas may also suffer. A nursing unit with poor trust between its staff members will be less likely to collaborate.

Here are a few team-building activities to promote teamwork in nursing:

1. Review the TeamSTEPPS Tool

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) created the TeamSTEPPS framework to help boost teamwork and increase the effectiveness of communication among nurses. This model has five key principles for team members to uphold: team structure, communication, leadership, situation monitoring and mutual support. The TeamSTEPPS framework aids in team building by helping each team member understand the requirements of teamwork. It is important for team members to be on the same page.

2. Develop Team Trust

It’s difficult for anyone to trust a person they don’t know well to uphold their role as a team member. Boosting trust within a team can help collaboration. A good way to do this is to help members get to know each other. Nurses can bring in photos of themselves, their hobbies and their families to post on a board or even interview one another to get to know about their lives and experiences.

3. Establish and Reinforce Team Goals

Knowing common goals is essential for a team to work effectively. It helps to have a benchmark result for the team to work toward achieving. An example goal might be reducing the number of falls on a unit or improving patient satisfaction scores by a certain percentage. If the team reaches the goal, they earn a reward. Visible reminders, such as a calendar with all fall-free days marked or a graph with patient satisfaction scores, can help keep the team motivated.

4. Recognize Team Efforts

Receiving recognition for great teamwork helps nurses stay committed to collaborating with others. Even simple, personal thank-you notes acknowledging actions team members took to help teammates keep motivation strong. It’s always encouraging to know that good work is appreciated.

Exercises to Facilitate Team Building in Nursing

Another way to promote team building in nursing is to engage in regular, coordinated activities designed to boost trust and cohesion among team members. Here are a few exercises to consider:

  • Do something to give back. Nurses devote their lives to helping others. Even so, one way to build a spirit of team unity is to find an after-hours opportunity to serve and volunteer, perhaps by taking a shift in a community garden or coordinating an event at a local school.
  • Try role-playing. You can also engage nurses in role-playing simulations, including “mystery diagnosis” games in which one nurse plays a physician, one plays a nurse and one plays a patient.
  • Play medical charades. Looking to inject some frivolity into your team-building activities? Try a game of charades in which all the clues are related to clinical care (for example, clues could be IV or code blue).
  • Go off-site. Fun off-site events can facilitate camaraderie. The options are endless: zip-lining, go-karts, miniature golf, bowling or simply a cocktail hour.

Leading by Example 

The advantages of teamwork in nursing benefit both nurses and patients. Nurses of all experience and education levels can boost teamwork skills in their unit by implementing even one of these team-building strategies. Nurses with a passion for leadership can further learn how to promote teamwork in nursing by obtaining an MSN and taking their career to the next level as nurse managers, nurse educators, nurse practitioners or even healthcare executives.

Spring Arbor University offers online MSN programs that are rooted in Christ-centered philosophy with nursing education and nurse practitioner tracks, as well as a dual MSN-MBA degree. The program is designed with flexibility for working nurses who want to advance their careers and take on leadership roles. Enroll in an MSN and start making a positive impact in the healthcare industry. 

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