The Power of Teamwork
How We Can All Work Better Together
Brian Goldman, MD
Reviewed by Sena Gok, MD
Dr. Brian Goldman is an ER physician, author, and radio show host of CBC’s White Coat Black Art. His other books are The Night Shift and The Power of Kindness.
The Power of Teamwork helps the reader understand and revisit the meaning of “team” and provides practical and easy strategies to increase efficiency through teamwork. In the author’s words, “A group is not always a team, and any group can become a team.” Throughout the book, he describes how teamwork can improve care and improve the overall satisfaction of staff in complex health care settings.
The book has 13 chapters and provides fascinating examples of novel training methods implemented in some medical schools and hospitals. For example, medical training can be improved through art appreciation. Playing escape rooms as a team could enhance communication and out-of-the-box thinking within health care. Medical improvisation classes are being used to flatten the hierarchy in medicine, recognizing that, in reality, physician–patient interaction is, to some degree, improvised. Improv exercises help draw attention to others’ facial expressions and tone of voice, prompting one to change the role accordingly.
In addition, these experiences build trust between team members. Young trainees in health care may hesitate to express a concern about a patient because they may be wrong or might not want to deal with the implications. In most medical cultures, accepting help is a sign of weakness, and offering support is an accusation of incompetence. These simulation activities help individuals learn to speak up, provide feedback, or take a leadership role when necessary.
According to Goldman, workers in health care can learn a lot about teamwork by learning to be less serious. Games, improv, simulations, and even drumming can help them learn how to play together while also preparing for medical crises. In addition, when it comes to games, people learn to “play for the team.” Readers will find descriptions of the team-building exercises entertaining.
The book turns several times to a patient case from the Introduction, addresses it from different perspectives, analyzes the situation, and provides suggestions. Each chapter describes a new training method. Throughout the book, examples are given from physicians, paramedics, and experts from the military and aviation, encountering all types of disaster scenarios. Essential steps of efficient teamwork and culture are discussed. For example, aviation experts began to create and maintain a culture of safety when they moved away from the “pilot as boss” model to a team-based approach.
To be a team, individuals must be interdependent regarding the knowledge and materials they work with. According to the author, teams begin failing when group members become sensitive to criticism and hesitant to give feedback. There are some anti-teamwork habits that can maintain a vicious cycle. In the author’s experience, elaborating on feedback/rejection of an idea and asking for the critical thinking behind it helped them maintain the team spirit instead of feeling defensive and falling out. At these times, the “tell me more method” you will find under “visual thinking strategies” in the book can empower the members of the team.
It is incredible to read, in each chapter, the life story and ambitions of the author and his mentioned mentors, so we get to know these people and their aspirations better.
The main message in the book is that health care isn’t about winning championships — it is mainly about curing, repairing, and saving lives and sharing a common goal. Through all the strategies and experiences, the book leads the reader to evaluate the meaning of teams we are involved in. Are we interested and invested in making everyone else look good, too, or are we in it for ourselves? I believe this book creates hope and resilience for mentors. The strategies can strengthen the teams in health care and trainees at all stages of their careers.
Sena Gok, MD, is an international medical doctor who completed medical education in Germany and Turkey. Her clinical and research interests include psychedelic science, psychotherapy, and addictions medicine, and she is a podcaster in PsychED and RawTalk Science.