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Teamwork in primary care: perspectives of general practitioners and community nurses in Lithuania

15 Aug 2013

Background:
A team approach in primary care has proven benefits in achieving better outcomes, reducing health care costs, satisfying patient needs, ensuring continuity of care, increasing job satisfaction among health providers and using human health care resources more efficiently. However, some research indicates constraints in collaboration within primary health care (PHC) teams in Lithuania. The aim of this study was to gain a better understanding of the phenomenon of teamwork in Lithuania by exploring the experiences of teamwork by general practitioners (GPs) and community nurses (CNs) involved in PHC.
Methods:
Six focus groups were formed with 29 GPs and 27 CNs from the Kaunas Region of Lithuania. Discussions were recorded and transcribed verbatim. A thematic analysis of these data was then performed.
Results:
The analysis of focus group data identified six thematic categories related to teamwork in PHC: the structure of a PHC team, synergy among PHC team members, descriptions of roles and responsibilities of team members, competencies of PHC team members, communications between PHC team members and the organisational background for teamwork. These findings provide the basis for a discussion of a thematic model of teamwork that embraces formal, individual and organisational factors.
Conclusions:
The need for effective teamwork in PHC is an issue receiving broad consensus; however, the process of teambuilding is often taken for granted in the PHC sector in Lithuania. This study suggests that both formal and individual behavioural factors should be targeted when aiming to strengthen PHC teams. Furthermore, this study underscores the need to provide explicit formal descriptions of the roles and responsibilities of PHC team members in Lithuania, which would include establishing clear professional boundaries. The training of team members is an essential component of the teambuilding process, but not sufficient by itself.

Date: 
15 August 2013

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