Patient Care is a Team Sport

Patient Care is a Team Sport

After the Institute of Medicine first reported in 1999 that up to 98,000 people a year died in hospitals because of human error, the health care industry has been working to transform itself.

The latest tool in this process is a new book about medical teamwork edited by Eduardo Salas, a University of Central Florida psychology professor, and Karen Frush, chief patient safety officer and associate professor of pediatrics at Duke University School of Medicine.

“Improving Patient Safety Through Teamwork and Team Training,” which is scheduled for release later this month, provides a look at the science of improving team performance in the delivery of clinical care.

“Patient care is a team sport,” said Salas. “If you’ve ever been to a hospital or had surgery, you know that not just one person is taking care of you.”

The Institute of Medicine report largely blamed the failures of communication and cooperation for the hospital deaths.

“We need to better understand teamwork, how to keep it, and how to train for these things,” said Salas, a Pegasus Professor and Trustee Chair Professor who holds an appointment as program director for the Human Systems Integration Research Department at UCF’s Institute for Simulation & Training.

Salas said he was approached by several health care publishers to write the book because UCF has become recognized as a world leader in teamwork, training and patient safety. 

He approached Frush and other editors and writers in the field to create the 288-page paperback. He and Frush also both wrote several of the chapters.

“We launched this project about 18 months ago, and we were able to recruit the best thinkers, practitioners and scientists across the country and around the world that were doing something with patient teamwork and training,” Salas said. “This really puts UCF at the forefront.”

Chapters of the book offer guidelines and lessons on topics such as how to measure success, different needs of various clinical situations, and how to monitor training.

Frush, who has worked both as a nurse and physician, said in her experiences she has seen the critical importance of teamwork. 

“Many clinicians and leaders in health care speak of the importance of teamwork using anecdotes and stories,” she said. “This book provides evidence and examples that will be very helpful in convincing those health care leaders and clinicians who’ve not yet realized the power and importance of teamwork.”

She also said that as health care continues to become more complex, it is even more clear that treatments cannot be delivered by one individual. 

“There is not one ‘expert’ that can do it all,” Frush said. “The complexity requires an expert team, and we’re finally beginning to include training in teamwork knowledge and skills.”

In the book’s preface, Salas stressed that team training can produce significant results in clinical outcomes.

“It is safe to say a science of teamwork and team training is emerging,” he wrote. “This volume is motivated by that goal—keeping the science moving.”

Other UCF contributors to the book published by Oxford University Press are: Tripp Driskell, a graduate research assistant; Jennifer Feitosa, a psychology doctoral student; Elizabeth H. Lazzara, a doctoral candidate and graduate research assistant; Sallie J. Weaver of the Department of Psychology and Institute for Simulation & Training; and Salvatore Silvestri, clinical associate professor of emergency medicine at UCF, program director at Orlando Regional Medical Center, and associate EMS medical director of the Orange County EMS System.

This is Salas’ 24th book, most of which have covered team performance or training. His nationally recognized expertise includes helping organizations foster teamwork, designing and implementing team-training strategies, facilitating training effectiveness, managing decision-making under stress, developing performance measurement tools and designing learning environments. He is working on designing tools and techniques to minimize human errors in aviation, law enforcement and medical environments.

He also has served as a consultant to a variety of manufacturing, industrial and governmental organizations and pharmaceutical laboratories. He received his doctorate in industrial and organizational psychology from Old Dominion University.