Better Care Found in Nursing Homes With Good Staff Communication, Teamwork

A recent study links senior care facilities’ quality of care to the level of teamwork and communication among staff, according to research published in the June issue of Health Services Research

Nursing home administrators may contend they have care coordination teams in place, but it’s only when staff perceive themselves as a cohesive unit that care quality improves, the study suggests. 

“We know from other fields of medicine that teamwork—the relationship between coworkers that facilitates decision making and care coordination—plays an important role in the quality of care,” said Helena Temkin-Greener, Ph.D., lead author of the study and professor in the Department of Community and Preventive Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC).

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Temkin-Greener and her fellow researchers examined data on more than 45,000 residents in 162 nursing homes across New York. They studied care quality indicators such as the incidence rate of incontinence and pressure ulcers—conditions that are preventable, but common.

Many times, poor staff communication and teamwork can increase the prevalence of incontinence and pressure ulcers thanks to inadequate hand-offs during shift changes or inefficient care coordination. 

Researchers found an association between staff that had greater levels of shared common goals, values, responsibility for care delivery, and group identity and the prevalence of pressure ulcers and incontinence. A 0.25-point improvement in a staff’s cohesion score correlated with a 4.5% decrease in pressure ulcers, and a 7.6% decrease in incontinence.

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“This study empirically demonstrates that better work relationships between staff, as measured by staff cohesion, are associated with better outcomes for nursing home residents,” said Temkin-Greener. “Nursing home managers have the tools to encourage good patient care but they have to work at it and encourage practices that promote better cohesion, communication, and teamwork in their facilities. If they do this, the quality of care will improve.”

Written by Alyssa Gerace

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