Effective interprofessional teams: “Contact is not enough” to build a team


  • Joan Sargeant PhD,

    Corresponding author
    1. Continuing Medical Education, and Associate Professor and Director, Program of Research in Health and Medical Education, Division of Medical Education, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
    • Continuing Medical Education, Clinical Research Centre, C106 5849 University Avenue, Halifax, NS, B3H 4H7, Canada
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  • Elaine Loney MSc,

    1. Qualitative Research Consultant, Bedford, Nova Scotia, Canada
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  • Gerard Murphy BScHE

    1. Barefoot Facilitation and Development, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
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Introduction: Teamwork and interprofessional practice and learning are becoming integral to health care. It is anticipated that these approaches can maximize professional resources and optimize patient care. Current research, however, suggests that primary health care teams may lack the capacity to function at a level that enhances the individual contributions of their members and team effectiveness. This study explores perceptions of effective primary health care teams to determine the related learning needs of primary health care professionals.

Methods: Primary health care team members with a particular interest in teamwork shared perspectives of effective teamwork and educational needs in interprofessional focus groups. Transcripts from nine focus groups with a total of 61 participants were analyzed using content analysis and grounded hermeneutic approaches to identify themes.

Results: Five themes of primary care team effectiveness emerged: (1) understanding and respecting team members' roles, (2) recognizing that teams require work, (3) understanding primary health care, (4) working together: practical “know-how” for sharing patient care, and (5) communication. Communication was identified as the essential factor in effective primary health care teams.

Discussion: Several characteristics of effective primary health care teams and the related knowledge and skills that professionals require as effective team members are identified. Effective teamwork requires specific cognitive, technical, and affective competence.