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The Best Approach Is a Team Approach

What UBTs offer docs

I am a big proponent of the team approach to medicine. That’s why I am an active participant of my department’s unit-based team.

As the physician co-lead for the Pediatrics unit-based team, I participate in the UBT meetings both to give and to receive ideas. Ideally, a physician brings to a UBT the vision on how to work together to provide the best possible patient care, support for the management co-lead, and the willingness and openness to listen to what other people have to say. 

According to Dr. Atul Gawande, noted author and surgeon, it used to be that doctors were trained to be cowboys. They worked alone and saved the day. In today’s world, what people really need are pit crews, teams of people where everyone’s function is vital to the overall success of the enterprise. Medicine is no longer an individual endeavor—it has grown so complex and multifaceted that no physician can know everything. So we need to foster the team approach to give our patients the best possible care. 

When I first came to Kaiser nearly 10 years ago, the thing I heard that really stuck with me was the KP Service Quality credo: “Our cause is health. Our passion is service. We’re here to make lives better.” I immediately connected with it and have used it to filter everything I do. 

In other words, I always ask myself: Does what we are doing support our cause, passion and goal? If it does, then it’s usually worth doing. 

Advice to other physicians  

  • Say "thank you" and say "please." Really go out of your way to appreciate someone who comes up with an idea that has made your life easier. And do it publicly.
  • Make time for daily huddles with your staff.
  • Create an environment in which people feel free to share their ideas. One of the worst forms of waste is unused creativity.
  • Give people the benefit of the doubt; pause and reflect when you feel yourself getting upset.
  • Think outside the box. Go to staff members who aren’t at the nursing station to help out when needed. This gives the whole team a sense of ownership over patient care. 

Bottom line? Being a leader isn’t just about being in charge. Just because you’re a physician doesn’t mean you have to spearhead all of the work. If you really want to make a difference or a change, you have to include the entire staff. The work will get done better, faster and easier if we work together. And if you believe in the work that you are doing, then teamwork is a natural expression of patient care.

Tips on huddles

Huddles are a key part of my day. At the start of each day I review the day’s schedule with the medical assistant. I look for patient names that are familiar so that we are prepared for the day’s visits. For example, if I know that a patient has concerns that are likely to take up more than the usual 15-minute office visit, I will tell that to the medical assistants so they are prepared, and together, we give our patients the best care possible. 

These huddles are very informal, but they go a long way toward being prepared and letting the patients know they are well cared for.

Medical Visit/Screening - ColorPhysicians As Change Agents

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