Team-Building in Healthcare - Why it's Vital


Published: 06 July 2019

Teamwork is essential to healthcare, but bringing interprofessional groups together can be a challenging task.

This article discusses the reasons why team-building is crucial in creating effective healthcare teams - and why team-building should be seen as an ongoing initiative.

Do Team-Building Exercises Actually Work?

As McEwan et al. (2017) state, there is ample research into the effectiveness of teamwork-centric strategies in the healthcare industry.

McEwan et al. (2017) found that improvements in teamwork have been observed as a result of training with a variety of ‘team types’. This includes new teams, intact teams and those created for laboratory-based experiments. In sum, the extant empirical evidence to date appears to suggest that teams can be improved via teamwork training.

Overwhelming evidence supports the idea that active learning activities are more effective for professional growth than passive activities such as sitting in a lecture (McEwan et al. 2017).

Teamwork v Taskwork - What’s the Difference?

While taskwork describes what teams are doing, teamwork describes how team members are doing it with each other (McEwan et al. 2017). Therefore, a lapse in communication has the capacity to undermine the individual capabilities of people within a team.

While taskwork is concerned with the way core technical competencies are carried out within a given professional context, teamwork refers to the variety of interactive and interdependent behavioural processes among team members that transforms team input into outcomes (McEwan et al. 2017).

An example of teamwork (with respective comparison to taskwork) is the seamless communication and collaboration between a nurse, surgeon and anesthesiologist, rather than the technical competencies of these individual practitioners (McEwan et al. 2017).

Research from an assortment of studies indicates that teamwork is directly related to crucial team effectiveness variables, which include:

  • Team performance
  • Group cohesion
  • Collective efficacy
  • Job satisfaction.

(McEwan et al. 2017)

Vertical view of people rowing

Where Do Team-Building Exercises Fit into This?

Well-executed, off-site activities have been shown to create familiarity among co-workers, foster opportunities for co-workers to become more motivated as a group and may even help to break down any political and personal barriers they might have (Firth 2015).

Team-building may be beneficial in more ways than one: it not only encourages rapport between staff but also makes employees feel more engaged and connected to their place of work, leading to an overall higher degree of job satisfaction (Scudamore 2016).

A key takeaway from a team-building activity could be that it encourages and rewards problem-solving. Problem-solving is a daily requirement of the healthcare profession, and the absence of careful and considered problem-solving is perhaps more acutely felt than in other equally-demanding professions (Nursing Times 2015).

Team-building exercises have the potential to expose staff to new experiences that may encourage them beyond their usual way of seeing the world. Working together with other team members can inspire creativity and fresh ideas, which are invaluable to any workplace (Red Shoes PR 2013).

The Three Most Important Aspects of Team-Building in Healthcare Settings

Particularly for healthcare professionals, holidays, absence and shiftwork schedules can make it very difficult to bring together large numbers of people, discuss issues and share organisational information. This is where team-building can really make a difference (Mckeown 2015).

1. Combining Skills

Team cohesion is vital in carrying out effective healthcare – since health professionals work in interprofessional teams, it's not always easy to tell where team boundaries should be drawn.

In healthcare, effective team-building occurs when every team member understands, believes in and works towards the shared purpose of caring, tending to and working for patients (Mckeown 2015).

2. Bridging Generational Divides

Today’s healthcare teams are often comprised of many different generations, so carrying out successful healthcare relies on these teams overcoming their potential differences (Moore et al. 2016).

Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z each have cultural values and traits, formed by the particular contexts of their youth, which also manifest in the workplace (Cox & Holloway 2011). Team-building is a way for people to connect across generations and learn from each other (Moore et al. 2016).

3. New Approaches

Organisations that promote team-building tend to improve problem-solving and morale, leading to healthier work environments. The flow-on effect of organisational effectiveness is new learning and openness (Moore et al. 2016).

Working collegially with a wide range of team members from various backgrounds promotes the acquisition of wisdom and original thinking in a demanding environment. This effective team culture can only enhance the way patients receive care (Gonzalez & Rolman 2010).

Beyond Team-Building

Cohesive teamwork is much more than the occasional team-building exercise - working as a team also means that individuals are able to:

  • Be comfortable raising issues of concern
  • Bring their collective knowledge and wisdom to the table on issues that present in clinical practice
  • Effectively deal with conflict and pressure
  • Develop and maintain relationships.

(Moore et al. 2016)


Individual wellbeing is often linked to the wellbeing of the team, and teams are most productive where there is openness and trust and members are able to work to their own strengths (Moore et al. 2016).

It’s not only healthcare staff who benefit from this, as patients no doubt reap the rewards of more engaged, communicative and cohesive teams.

Additional Resources



educator profile image
Madeline Gilkes View profile
Madeline Gilkes, CDE, RN, is a Fellow of the Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine. She focused her Master of Healthcare Leadership research project on health coaching for long-term weight loss in obese adults. Madeline has found a passion for preventative nursing. She has transitioned from leadership roles (CNS Gerontology & Education, Clinical Facilitator) in the acute/hospital setting to education management and primary healthcare. Madeline’s vision is to implement lifestyle medicine to prevent and treat chronic conditions. Her research proposal for her PhD involves Lifestyle Medicine for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Madeline is a Credentialled Diabetes Educator (CDE) and primarily works in the academic role of Head of Nursing. Madeline’s philosophy focuses on using humanistic management, adult learning theories/evidence and self-efficacy theories and interventions to promote positive learning environments. In addition to her Master of Healthcare Leadership, Madeline has a Graduate Certificate in Diabetes Education & Management, Graduate Certificate in Adult & Vocational Education, Graduate Certificate of Aged Care Nursing, and a Bachelor of Nursing. She is working towards her PhD.