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Lessons on Teamwork and Collaboration from a Crisis: What have you learned that you want to take forward with you?

Our Teaming at a Distance series continues, with the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation's Interprofessional Guiding Coalition sharing their insights and reflective questions...

 In October, 2019, representatives from Edson College’s undergraduate and graduate programs created an Interprofessional Guiding Coalition to broaden the impact of its interprofessional footprint in practice, education, and research.

Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation's Interprofessional Guiding Coalition Vision

To create a vibrant and effective interprofessional learning environment to prepare Edson College current and future health professions learners for team-based patient-centered care and interprofessional research and to establish a life-time learning commitment for graduates, faculty, staff and clinical partners to improving team-based patient-centered care and interprofessional research for quality health care and provider well-being.

At our April meeting, members of this group reflected on what we’re learning about teamwork and IPE during the COVID-19 crisis. We asked each other: 

       What have you learned that you want to take forward with you? 

       What lessons are important to advancing teamwork and IPE in the future?              

The discussion was powerful, energizing, poignant, personal, funny, and much more. Here are just a few of the insights that were shared and questions we want to keep on the table for ongoing dialogue.

The importance of authenticity.

Aliria Rascon
Aliria Rascón, Edson’s Assistant Director of the Global Health Collaboratory, spoke about authenticity, saying:

“We may not ever have another time when every single human being on the planet is going through something very similar. That’s a magical and terrible thing at the same time. This is a moment to reflect on who we are and who we’re surrounded with.”

Reflection: How do we bring this sense of all being part of a bigger whole to our interprofessional work and to our students?

Trust is the foundation for rapid change.

Liz Harrell
Liz Harrell, Edson’s SHOW Community Initiative Director, is deep in the community trenches with students from multiple professions and clinical partners. She shared her belief that trust makes all the difference when you need to move quickly and decisively:

“For me, the big take home is the speed of trust. You make things happen so quickly when there is a foundation of trust. It’s because you trust the people you work with, you get outside your own head, because there’s an immediate need and you have to do it.”

Liz encouraged everyone to read Steven Covey’s book, Speed of Trust (which coincidentally, or not so coincidentally, was on her desk next to her). 

Reflection: What do we need to be doing more of, with whom to build a foundation and speed of trust?

Seize the opportunities to innovate.

Margaret Calacci
As the saying goes, necessity may well be the mother (or father) of invention.

Margaret Calacci, Director of Grace Center for Innovation and Nursing Education, marveled at what her team was able to accomplish overnight when challenged to take interprofessional simulations online:

“Innovation to me means the creative spark that pushes us beyond boundaries to do new things. That couldn’t have happened before. We would have been bound up in red tape somewhere… but here we were on Monday night at 6:30 p.m. deciding that Tuesday morning we were going to be online. It happened. I don’t know how, but it did.”

Reflection: What allows innovation to flourish in crisis? How can we bring some of “whatever that is” forward to enrich interprofessional practice, education and research?        

Let the light shine in.

Mary Smalle
Mary Smalle, Director of Healthcare Compliance, reflected on how unprecedented change and the urgent need for action illuminates relationships among us and opens new doors. She shared that the definition of light, according to Merriam-Webster, is “something that makes vision possible; capable of moving swiftly or nimbly," adding that:

“After this unprecedented (in my lifetime) event, I would say that in an emergency, the light between us naturally increased and we, with no time to dwell on fears, were able to see things differently. In this profound clarity, we are able to create that which was never considered or considered unimaginable. In the light we are able to get out of our collective own way.” 

Reflection: Must we depend on emergencies to let new light in? How do we keep the light shining on new insights, new connections among all of us? 

Accept what we can’t control and keep moving toward the goal.  

Megan Petrov
Megan Petrov, the Guiding Coalition’s representative of Edson’s Research Faculty, was just beginning to launch a new interprofessional research experience for undergraduate students at the time that COVID-19 was ramping up.She explained that the initiative will transform “one-off” independent study experiences into broad-based, team science approaches available to all Edson undergraduates. Petrov shared her approach for moving forward with acceptance:

“With a complete upending of typical routines, I know that many, including myself, must be experiencing the pain of sacrificing, juggling, and reprioritizing. Prior projects of personal and occupational importance may be stalled altogether. What helps me is asking myself each day what one small thing I can accomplish that pushes toward the end goal, and if the answer is ‘nothing,’ then practicing acceptance.”

Reflection: How can we help each other meaningfully “adjust” end goals both in times of crisis, like with COVID-19, and other times as well?

Affirm we’re there with each other.

Melanie Brewer
Melanie Brewer, Director of Academic-Practice Partnerships, while participating in a community COVID-19 screening event with faculty and students, was asked by a student, “You’re still practicing, aren’t you?”

Brewer replied, “Absolutely, as long as I’m able,” and the student said, “Oh, that’s good.”  

For Brewer, it was an important moment. She shared her insight, saying:

“I don’t want to lose sight of the ability to connect with people we work with in very different ways than the usual day-to-day activities so they have a sense we’re there with them.”  

Reflection: How do we keep these connections going? How can we help our colleagues and students to see us and members of different professions in ways that reaffirm shared values and connections when we’re not in unusual or crisis situations?


About the Authors

This article was collaboratively written, with all members of the Edson College Interprofessional Guiding Coalition contributing.


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Teaming at a Distance features guest posts with stories from the field. If you would like to contribute, please email your thoughts and ideas on Teaming at a Distance to caiper@asu.eduCheck the CAIPER Blog or sign-up for email updates to see the latest articles.


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