The Heart of Your Team: Fostering Collaboration and Positive Attitude

Susan Ray, Recruitment Consultant, Corazon, Inc., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Susan Ray, Recruitment Consultant, Corazon, Inc., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The cardiovascular service line, and especially the diagnostic and interventional cardiology departments, have long fostered a team approach to care through cross-training of staff, an all-for-one approach to staffing and case coverage, and even team uniforms. This effort has not gone unnoticed and, in fact, shown tremendous results in terms of improved operational efficiency; staff, patient and physician satisfaction; and lower than average turnover rates. Indeed, the vacancy rates in most facilities are much lower in cardiac-specific areas. These are the very reasons that hospital leadership is driven to implement the service line model in other core hospital specialties. Cardiovascular leaders wanting to empower staff to contribute to common goals must provide an atmosphere of trust, positivity, cooperation and effective communication as necessary components to making teamwork successful. Trust is the underlying foundation of any good team; without it, no team can succeed. Furthermore, having a positive attitude is key to help solve problems, rather than harbor them. Indeed, cooperation and effective communication are necessary overall for leaders to role model and teach, which encourages staff to climb on board when tackling new initiatives or projects with a team attitude and optimistic perspective. As we work with cardiovascular programs across the country on both consulting and recruitment projects, we understand what makes a high-quality, top-performing team. It is not enough for leaders to simply demand that staff work together. While all teams are groups of individuals, not all groups of individuals necessarily demonstrate the cohesiveness of a team. Time and again, teams outperform individuals because they generate enthusiasm and high energy, which develops even further as staff work together to achieve and deliver tangible performance results. But this cannot happen without effort on the part of leaders and staff alike. Imagine staff working individually in a cardiac cath lab (CCL), without any interaction, organization, communication, or training to foster their skills and improve performance… This scenario could have devastating effects, such as the duplication of efforts, inefficiently-run processes and procedures, delayed procedure start and end times, errors in patient management, and insufficient supplies and/or equipment. The result: increased costs in terms of both time and money, with a negative impact on the bottom line, patient outcomes and overall service delivery. Good teamwork releases group synergy so that the combined efforts of each person s contribution outweigh the sum of their individual efforts. Teamwork encourages accountability and working together to get things done properly. In a true team environment, each member of the team is coached and led by all the other members of the team. Thus, success or failure is felt by all members, not just the individual in charge. For instance, failures are not blamed on individuals, which gives them the courage to take chances and then learn from mistakes from other members of the team. Likewise, successes are felt by every team member, which helps everyone to set and achieve bigger and better successes. Such a scenario creates continuous improvement, where everyone strives beyond the status quo. No one knows the CCL job, tasks, and goals better than the individual team members, each with unique knowledge, skills, and abilities. But when they pull together as a team, more can be achieved by collectively pooling these talents. The goal is for personal motives to be pushed aside to allow the team to excel. So, how can you achieve this type of collaboration in your cath lab? It begins at the top. Leaders must role-model positive behaviors in order to stimulate and provide the type of atmosphere that fosters teamwork and a willingness for others to participate. For a CCL to succeed, physician and administrative leaders must work together. Effective leadership is critical in enhancing positive outcomes in the CCL (or any environment) and produces high-quality services. If the CCL staff is unable to communicate with leaders or each other, then they will struggle to produce the service line results expected. Leaders must also role model a positive attitude, because without it, true teamwork and collaboration become challenging. Positive attitude is extremely important, as it encourages individuals to approach each day, and each problem, with a bright outlook. In a team environment, a positive attitude encourages a team to work together with individual styles and personalities. When members of a team have a positive attitude, it tends to be contagious…others around them will begin to have a more positive outlook as time passes. On the other hand, a negative spin can cripple a team rather quickly as a bad influence on productivity, attitude, morale and overall job performance. It s never too late, however. Those individuals who tend to be negative thinkers still can turn their attitudes around and become team players…it just takes a little leadership, guidance, and mentorship from others in the group especially the manager. In a specialized unit such as the cath lab, there is no room for negativity. When decisions and actions must be coordinated to the millisecond, all players must be in harmony. Leaders must stress to all members of the team that grousing cannot and will not be tolerated. To help incentivize and patrol attitude, some organizations are adding terms and values such as enthusiasm, positive attitude and teamwork to evaluation criteria. This makes employees aware that these are attributes that can affect performance evaluations and even salary increases. A positive attitude (and the resulting atmosphere of teamwork) can greatly impact the performance of a CCL, benefiting patients, families, staff and leadership. Consider these facts: People who have a positive attitude are better able to attract other positive people. In fact, employees prefer to be around positive co-workers because it improves their attitude and makes their jobs more enjoyable day-to-day. Positivity enables people to look at the world from a unique angle: one of possibility. When facing a problem or a mistake, employees with a positive outlook will bounce back quicker and be more likely to find a solution. Overall, positive people are happier, healthier, and more productive. Studies have proven that they handle both large and small problems more easily, and are better able to cope with stress. The benefits of having a positive attitude are definitely worth the time and effort that might be necessary to change your perspective and achieve it. A positive attitude can be a motivating force in your cath lab. If you choose to be happy, content, satisfied and confident in your personal and professional life, people around you will begin to feel the same way. The amount of camaraderie that is created in teams can be amazing, especially when the going gets tough. People will often go to what seems like extreme lengths when they know that they can rely on the support and encouragement of their team. Never underestimate the significance of this in achieving outstanding results in patient care and also the operations of your department. Teams that work well together in the context of positivity make a huge impact on the lives of those around them, and similarly benefit from the rewards. This article was reprinted with permission from Cath Lab Digest 2007;12:37-41. The author is a Recruitment Consultant at Corazon, offering specialized consulting and recruitment services for cardiovascular program development. Corazon combines strategic business planning, market and financial analysis, feasibility studies, clinical operations, program implementation support, Heart Hospital design, best practice benchmarking, executive search, and staff/leadership education for newly established or existing heart and vascular programs.