5 Strategies to Increase Teamwork in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU)

5 Strategies to Increase Teamwork in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU)

Moxie Scrubs
4 minute read

Written by Amanda Marten NP-C, MSN

With the ever-increasing demands in the healthcare field, it’s no surprise that teamwork is crucial. Teamwork not only includes the relationship between nurses and patient care technicians, but also comprises the entire care team. Additional care team members can be doctors, pharmacists, physical and respiratory therapists, etc. Everyone contributes to making patient care exceptional. 

Here are reasons why teamwork is important and strategies to increase teamwork in the intensive care unit (ICU).

Teamwork Is Important

Among healthcare teams, it’s common knowledge that patient complexity and acuity are increasing 一 especially in the ICU because patients require life support or have life-threatening conditions. A study published in the American Journal of Critical Care demonstrates that better teamwork in the ICU can improve patient outcomes. Better patient outcomes can decrease mortality rates and improve patients’ quality of care and satisfaction

Strategies to Increase Teamwork

1. Facilitate Learning

Experienced nurses must welcome and have patience with new nurses. Every new nurse comes from a different background and could have more knowledge in some areas than the experienced nurse. This also includes nurses who transfer to the ICU. For example, a nurse from an oncology unit knows how to administer chemotherapy and could help you if you had never administered it previously. Treating new nurses kindly and practicing patience can create an ideal learning environment for both nurses to build a trusting relationship and willingness to learn. 

2. Communication

Effective communication is key when it comes to teamwork in the ICU. It quickly builds rapport with patients, family, and team members. Open and effective communication helps build a trusting relationship. Building a trusting relationship can be beneficial when there is  an emergency so that team members are more likely to trust their colleagues’ decisions and work as a team. 

3. Define Roles

As mentioned above, everyone has a vital role in the healthcare team. Nurses’ strengths and weaknesses are important to define when completing patient assignments. By defining these roles early on, it can lead to better outcomes during an emergency. For instance, there is usually a staff meeting at the beginning of every shift. The staff meeting covers concerns for the day and identifies nurses’ roles during an emergency or code blue (i.e. two nurses are assigned compressions, another pushes medications, and another records time, etc.). This leads to reduced confusion while saving time, which is crucial during a life-threatening situation. 

4. Emotional Support

We often forget, but patients and families are part of the care team as well. Patients and family members need emotional support because they may be the patient care decision-makers. Providing emotional support can increase patients’ and families’ trust and build better rapport. Additionally, debriefing is another form of emotional support after a traumatic incident or emergency situation that results in a positive or negative patient outcome. This allows team members to discuss outcomes, emotions, and give support if needed to strengthen team unity. It allows for reflection and facilitates future changes which can improve patient outcomes. 

5. Checklists

ICU nurses have autonomy with patient care and decisions by abiding by nursing protocols and checklists. The checklists help establish roles and promote communication of key health information between team members. In addition, they help identify patient goals, safety, and streamline processes. Checklists are important during interdisciplinary rounding as well to make sure information is discussed in a precise manner.

Whether providing emotional support or creating a new checklist, try one of these strategies to build effective teamwork on your unit. It may help you and your coworkers increase a sense of community and inspire teamwork.

About the Author

Amanda Marten NP-C, MSN has been a certified nurse practitioner for over three years. With eight years of nursing experience, she has worked in a variety of specialties including urgent care, travel nursing, post-surgical, and intensive care.





« Back to Blog