Table of contents
- Works Cited
In a clinical setting, teamwork and compassion are paramount to ensure patient safety and quality of care are adequate. It is important that healthcare professionals (HCPs) work in teams and practice self-compassion to reduce compassion fatigue and burnout. Self-compassion means that HCPs will have better mental and physical health so that when they are caring for patients they can give them their full attention and provide the best care possible. If they are at risk of burnout, it becomes very difficult to care for others to the standard of care that the NHS strives to provide. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the level of strain on the NHS and its staff; this increases the significance of compassionate care for patients and staff, as well as successful teamwork to decrease the strain and maximize resources. Medical students have also had to practice compassion and teamwork in regard to helping the community, and in the case of final-year students, stepping up to start work prematurely. Students that are not in their final year have also had the responsibility of working collaboratively, whilst remotely, for example in group work. Self-compassion is also very relevant here with managing a large workload and adapting to online learning.
One definition of compassion is Providing care that is respectful of, and responsive to, individual patient preferences, needs, and values, and ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions CITATION Wil19 l 2057 (Williamson, 2019). Someone`s time in the hospital is very likely to be when they are at their most vulnerable, so compassion is required to understand the decisions that they make about their care and to listen and speak to them. Listening to a patient and being respectful of their wishes builds trust with them and will make their time in a healthcare setting more bearable. HCPs should always strive to show compassion towards their patients, however, burnout can often cause this compassion to decline. A cross-sectional study was conducted to assess how empathy and self-compassion relate to professional quality of life. 280 registered nurses from public hospitals in Portugal were surveyed; empathy, professional quality of life, and self-compassion were recorded via self-report measures. The study concluded that high levels of effective empathy may be a risk factor for compassion fatigue, while self-compassion may be protective of empathy (Duarte, Pinto-Gouveia, and Cruz, 2016). With the stress of lack of resources, understaffing, and heavy workload, HCPs are at a high risk of compassion fatigue, which is why it is important that self-compassion is regularly practiced in the healthcare sector. This links to my experience working at a nursing home. Often HCPs were extremely fatigued, as they would work very long hours for consecutive days, and this inevitably had an impact on their ability to care for their patients. Therefore, compassion fatigue can have a real impact on nurses' enthusiasm to help those in need, subsequently compromising the standard of care that is given.
Compassion fatigue has become more prevalent due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Another study evaluated stress levels in 102 HCPs and their levels of compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, burnout, and hopelessness in the first two months of the COVID-19 lockdown. The results showed a clear increase in compassion fatigue during the pandemic; some of the highest levels of hopelessness and work stress were obtained (Franza, et al., 2020). This shows that the impact COVID-19 had on healthcare staff and patients was not a positive one, as it caused empathy and compassion to deplete, which also would have decreased the quality of care patients received.
Teamwork can be defined as a process that describes interactions among team members who combine collective resources to resolve task demands (Schmutz, et al., 2019). Meanwhile, a team can be defined as a group of individuals, all working together for a common purpose (Juneja, 2021). Teamwork plays a vital role in maintaining patient safety; teams of HCPs need to be able to communicate openly and transparently while being situationally aware (Keats, 2019). A healthcare team is likely to include a range of professionals including doctors, nurses, medical students, carers, physician assistants, dentists, pharmacists, physiotherapists, mental health specialists, administrative staff, and technicians. Each role is significant in patient care and the patient experience, for example from booking an appointment with administrative staff to being examined and diagnosed by a doctor or nurse and then collecting treatment from a pharmacist (Colorado Patient Navigator Training, 2011).
Medical students are exposed to teamwork very early on, in the form of group presentations and collaborative work. For example, in year 1, we had the opportunity to create and deliver presentations across a number of modules such as Muscles, Joints, and Movement, Professional and Academic Skills, and Community-Based Medicine. The skills that we have acquired from the nature of this group work will enable us to work more efficiently in teams during the next few years of medical school and as we become foundation doctors. Teamwork is also important when we have to start working on placements. This is because medical students will have to work in a multi-disciplinary team in order to achieve the best outcome for the patients in their care. Whilst in my Year 12 hospital work experience, I learned that in multi-disciplinary team meetings, the patient`s care plan will be discussed between a variety of HCPs, and the final decision about the next step for their care will then be discussed with the patient. This includes the patient in the team so that they have full disclosure about the plan for their treatment, but also allows lots of specialties to come together to provide them with targeted and quality care. This will make sure the care is patient-centered and thus will enhance the doctor-patient relationship, which can be defined as a consensual relationship in which the patient knowingly seeks the physician`s assistance and in which the physician knowingly accepts the person as a patient (Chipidza, Wallwork and Sterna, 2015). Increasing the strength of the doctor-patient relationship will increase patient compliance and cooperation within healthcare teams.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused healthcare teams to become even stronger, with teams of HCPs having to work longer hours, and step up to work on COVID-19 wards while having a real lack of resources. A study at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) illustrates that during the pandemic, prioritization was key due to the drastic reduction of resources (Jassar, Perkins, and Sundt, 2020). The staff had to pull together to give the best care to the patients in most need, which will have put their own physical and mental health at risk. Without teamwork, the level of care required to treat so many patients during this time would not have been possible. So many healthcare workers put themselves at risk and had to isolate themselves from their families, in order to look after their patients. This caused a lot of psychological stress and fatigue across teams working in the NHS (Karlsson and Fraenkel, 2020).
Communication in healthcare is a hugely important aspect of achieving efficient teamwork. Having standardized tools and an environment where individuals can raise concerns easily is really critical in providing good communication and a safe environment for staff and patients. For example, medical terminology that is used across healthcare can be efficient in transmitting messages quickly and safely among professionals (Leonard, Graham, and Bonacum, 2004). An effective communicating strategy can also help to keep staff safe as well as patients because it enables problems to be rectified as soon as possible which ultimately reduces the risk for everyone.
In conclusion, compassion and teamwork are essential in the maintenance of patient safety and for the best interests of patients and staff. Burnout is very prevalent in healthcare, and this can be reduced by self-compassion, to reduce compassion fatigue and increase patient safety. In addition, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused burnout to become much more problematic but with efficient teamwork and positive attitudes, staff has been able to be resilient and still provide excellent healthcare, while prioritizing those in most need. The concepts of compassion and teamwork will stay with medical students throughout their time in medical school and throughout their careers as doctors, as they are relevant in almost every aspect of learning to be an HCP and practicing the skills of one. It is important for HCPs to have a balance of compassion towards themselves and their patients in order to maintain a healthy working environment, where all of their actions are in the best interests of their patients.
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- Colorado Patient Navigator Training (2011)Â Who is on the healthcare team?, Patientnavigatortraining.org. [Online] Available at: https:www.patientnavigatortraining.orghealthcare_systemmodule31_index.htm [Accessed 17 June 2021].
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