Improving Nurse-Physician Teamwork for Better Patient Experiences

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With a background as an Emergency Department Medical Director, who now serves as Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Anthony Frank brings a unique perspective to today’s episode of Healthcare Experience Matters about improving nurse-physician teamwork. 

He is joined by Kathleen Lynam, an Executive Coach and Senior Advisor with the Healthcare Experience Foundation. Kathleen brings years of experience to this chat as a coach and registered nurse who rose to Vice President of Acute and Ambulatory Services at The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, N.J. 

Teamwork and Patient Care

Today’s chat is a powerful, honest, and detailed discussion about improving collaborations between nurses and physicians. Our podcast guests share stories about effective communication and the undeniably positive impact it can have on patient care. 

Dr. Frank currently serves as Senior Vice President of Medical Affairs and Chief Medical Officer (CMO) with UNC Health Blue Ridge in Morganton, N.C. 

In his years of patient care experience, Dr. Frank has observed a lot about teamwork as an emergency medicine doctor. Now he has a more eagle eye view on teamwork, in all different areas of healthcare, as the CMO with UNC Health Blue Ridge.  

“All of our healthcare team members are critical to what we do and how we take care of patients, but having said that, as a physician, there is no healthcare team member more important to what we do than the nurse,” Dr. Frank said. 

There is great insight delivered by both Dr. Frank and Kathleen about how patient satisfaction can be positively impacted when both physicians and nurses are on the same page.

“I could be the greatest doctor there is, but without a team of high-functioning nurses, the care really doesn’t get delivered to the patient,” Dr. Frank said. 

Trust and Respect

Collaboration is so crucial to driving positive patient experiences in healthcare. Many times, at the heart of that teamwork is a strong working relationship between nurses and physicians.

“I would love to work with Dr. Frank because he demonstrates two things that are probably the most important for teamwork: trust and respect,” Kathleen said. 

As the two discuss on today’s show, there are real consequences to poor communication — or a lack of teamwork — between nurses and physicians. Both Kathleen and Dr. Frank share firsthand accounts of what they have observed when it comes to poor communication.

They both share their thoughts about how hospitals and health systems can do more to encourage better communication to advance a safer environment for patients. 

Breaking Silos

When it comes to overcoming some common barriers to teamwork between nurses and physicians, it helps to break a “silo mentality” or a tendency for healthcare workers to operate in silos. 

While it is far from easy to always implement, there are some tactics for breaking down these silos that are discussed at length towards the closing minutes of today’s podcast. 

Improving teamwork between nurses and physicians is indeed one of the more important questions in healthcare today and having an open discussion about it is a great start towards making a change. 

“In my experience, teamwork varies from department-to-department to person-to-person, and it all goes back to the relationship, and whether the person has confidence with the person they’re working with,” Kathleen said.

As Kathleen told us, a lot of it boils down to trust and respect. 

Learn More

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Meet Kathleen Lynam, RN, MPA

Today, Kathleen Lynam brings extensive clinical, operational, and executive level experience in both small and large healthcare organizations across the country to her role as Executive Coach. But Kathleen is so much more than a coach. She is a national speaker, presenter and champion for patient care. Before stepping into the world of healthcare administration and, specifically, coaching, Kathleen spent over 40 years as a front-line nurse and Chief Nursing Officer at various medical centers and hospitals systems throughout New Jersey and New York. She knows what strong teams look and act like, having served in various leadership and coaching positions for large healthcare systems like Duke University Health System in Raleigh, Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern, New York as well as urban hospitals and community medical centers in the Bronx and Queens.

Now, with over 40 years of diverse experience in healthcare management, Kathleen is acutely aware of the power of positive patient care experiences on not just administrators seeking to improve outcomes, but also nursing teams working to make a difference in the lives of their patients.

Whether it’s working side-by-side to help front-line nurses and teams uncover different ways to wow patients and families, or working side-by-side with CEOs and CMOs of hospitals to solicit authentic feedback from members of their teams, Kathleen’s greatest delight is empowering healthcare teams with an engaging, hands-on approach that helps both organizations and individuals thrive.

Kathleen is a respected executive coach who has worked with organizations across the country to achieve results through embracing a culture of “every patient every time.” She has authored numerous articles on patient-centered communication, physician engagement and coaching, and has been a featured writer and speaker for notable organizations and publications such as PX Advisor Magazine, The Beryl Institute, Duke University, Dominical College School of Nursing, AACP, and the Society of Healthcare Pharmacists.

Connect with Kathleen Lynam, RN, MPA
More episodes with Kathleen Lynam, RN, MPA
Meet Anthony Frank, MD MBA FACEP CPE FAAPL, Sr VP Medical Affairs / CMO – UNC Health Blue Ridge