Talking Within the Team

In residential aged care, the team normally refers to the immediate care team in a work area, namely, the nurses, carers and lifestyle coordinators who provide direct care to a group of residents.

The team may also include people with diverse skills who contribute to the care of residents. GPs, senior nurses, physiotherapists, pharmacists, dieticians, pastoral care advisors and visiting service providers may all be involved in the care of residents.

They may meet formally, but often communication is via written records. It is often the Registered Nurse who acts as liaison, relaying information between team members, management, the resident and their family. The Registered Nurse has a leadership role within the team.

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Case conferences are one way to share information among care providers.

There is concern in the wider health care community that poor communication increases the risk of patient harm and contributes to lower staff morale. A program of communication skills training for all staff appears to foster change in communication culture in hospitals. [1] The evidence for improved patient safety is less clear.

Residential aged care is structurally and culturally different to hospital care. There are few studies of communication between health care professionals in aged care and outcomes for end-of-life care.  There is some evidence of a link between the quality of communication between careworkers and their colleagues and the quality of palliative care provided to residents. [2]

Effective communication:

  • is open, honest, accurate
  • fosters understanding between sender and receiver of information
  • reinforces staff perceptions of being supported, valued and able to influence care
  • is an essential tool of leadership [3]
  • may be formal (team meetings) or informal (casual meetings in work areas), and
  • contributes to effective team work. [4]
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Improved team communication may lead to more effective care, better outcomes for residents and greater staff satisfaction.

An Australian action research study suggests that multidisciplinary team are important in creating culture that supports a palliative care approach. [5]

Current innovations

Technology is changing the way people communicate. Electronic care records are commonplace in RAC and email communication, at least for some levels of staff, frequent. There are studies using telehealth to allow staff and residents to consult with specialist health care providers, without leaving the aged care facility. [6]

Social media is changing the way people communicate. New technologies are being used to reduce social isolation. They also provide new ways for health professionals to share information and knowledge.
There are concerns that social media can have adverse effects in the workplace including:

  1. Lee P, Allen K, Daly M. A 'Communication and Patient Safety' training programme for all healthcare staff: can it make a difference. BMJ Qual Saf. 2012 Jan;21(1):84-8. Epub 2011 Nov 18
  2. Zheng NT, Temkin-Greener H. End-of-life care in nursing homes: the importance of CNA staff communication. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2010 Sep;11(7):494-9. Epub 2010 Aug 1.
  3. Scott-Cawiezell J, Schenkman M, Moore L, Vojir C, Connoly RP, Pratt M, et al. Exploring nursing home staff's perceptions of communication and leadership to facilitate quality improvement. J Nurs Care Qual. 2004 Jul-Sep;19(3):242-52.
  4. Youngwerth J, Twaddle M. Cultures of interdisciplinary teams: how to foster good dynamics. J Palliat Med. 2011 May;14(5):650-4. Epub 2011 Apr 8. [No abstract available]
  5. Phillips JL, Davidson PM, Jackson D, Kristjanson LJ. Multi-faceted palliative care intervention: aged care nurses' and care assistants' perceptions and experiences. J Adv Nurs. 2008 Apr;62(2):216-27.
  6. Centre for Research in Geriatric Medicine and UQ Centre for Online Health. Telehealth grant awarded for residential aged care facilities. Brisbane: University of Queensland; 2012 [cited 2013 Feb 5].

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Last updated 04 June 2018