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In any organization getting employees to work together as a team is a challenge for management. In the healthcare industry, it can be an ever bigger challenge. The pressures associated with the provision of medical care, especially in surgical teams and in emergency room staffs, can prove daunting, especially if ego enters the equation, as it sometimes does with physicians. The more pressure associated with a situation, the more cohesive a group needs to remain. Too many conflicting personalities or too little communication and the team or group effort will assuredly unravel.
Because the dynamics involved in forming a cohesive team are largely known, there are specific methods or exercises that are routinely employed in the service of unit cohesion. These exercises include the formation of working groups in which each member of the group is dependent upon the others for successful completion of a given task. Personality clashes or failures of group members to communicate clearly with other members of the group will result in failure. Through carefully structured and monitored group endeavors, the individuals are expected to begin to function as the interrelated unit that the manager intended.
In addition to working groups, members of a team are often placed in a room, usually sitting in a circle to avoid the appearance of a hierarchy as is associated with seating arrangements at a formal conference table, and led by a moderator through a series of questions during which each member states his or her concerns, fears, expectations, and perceptions. As each takes his or her turn, the other members of the team are able to gain a picture of the group’s characteristics and thus are more likely to adapt to each other’s idiosyncrasies or expectations.
Medical institutions cannot function for the benefit of their patients if the group dynamics are deficient and the organization perceived as dysfunctional. As with any organization, leadership qualities as one ascends the chain of command are an integral part of unit cohesion. The managers must be perceived as competent and impartial, and should be capable of inspiring their staffs to perform to the best of their abilities. Meshing disparate personalities and levels of training in a high-pressure environment is challenging. It is, however, essential when the stakes are literally life and death.
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