It can be a lonely old job working in the community as a health professional. I hadn't thought about this until recently when I was case managing a very complex ‘sticky toffee‘ client who lives in a rural area. I didn’t have my usual posse to call on! You know, the other health professionals that I usually rely on, the one’s that ‘get me’ and the way I like to work and can help me fix all the problems in the world!
This client and I were having a particularly bad day and I didn’t know what to do next.. in Sydney I would have called a trusted colleague, referred to another discipline or called in the troops for a multidisciplinary case conference. Not this time.. I was stuck in the trenches all on my own for this one! I sat down and brain stormed the issues and realised there were so many different aspects of this person that needed to be treated and I couldn’t possibly do it all on my own. I was happy to be the Captain, but I couldn’t be the fisherman and the coast guard all at once.
It dawned on me that I was struggling so much with this client and on this case as I didn’t have a team to collaborate with… and collaboration is what I do best! I’ve been collaborating for years now – with my sister on what to wear, with my uni friends on assignments, with health professionals in every OT role I’ve had since graduating and more than ever now, bridging the gap between insurers and their clients. Collaboration you see, is not just about working together as a team, its truly understanding the end goal and ensuring every stake holder plays a specific role in achieving that goal.
I knew that I could help this person and let me tell you, there was much improvement to be had, but I couldn’t do it alone. I didn’t have an instant team around me like I could have arranged in a couple of hours in Sydney, but it was time to search for one. I sourced a Neuropsychologist a few hours down the road, a Social Worker on the way, a private physiotherapist who was happy to do home visits and a GP who was willing to work with us all to help his patient achieve his goals.
Now I made that sound easy, but it was extremely difficult to find willing health professionals in a rural area with capacity to work with the client, close enough to regularly treat him and willing to spend time collaborating with us all on the prize. The prize of rehabilitation and a more independent life for this young man with a severe brain injury. I was a winner too – I was back in my comfort zone, surrounded by exceptionally experienced health professionals, communicating about this man’s progress, evaluating the treatment plan and setting new goals every time they were achieved. Only last week did he sign his own name and change his child’s nappy for the very first time.. all thanks to community COLLABORATION!
Here’s my top 5 reasons for collaborating in the workplace:
1. A problem shared is a problem halved: Put your expertise together, bounce off each other and come up with the best solutions possible to get the job done quicker – it’s as simple as that!
2. Accountability: No one wants to let their colleagues down at the risk of looking unprofessional. We somehow work better when we are reporting back to each other (with your favourite physio looking over your shoulder with some friendly banter!).
3. Common targets: When you’re all working on the same goals, playing a slightly different role, you get this unstoppable momentum rolling across the team. It’s a great feeling!
4. Everyone wins: We’ve had great feedback from clients who get to work in this collaborative space with us. They’re aware that all team members are on the same page and know exactly what the goals are, leaving no space for miscommunication.
5. It’s not so lonely: When you’re there to support each other, it’s really not so bad. These difficult situations don’t feel quite so difficult and we can all move forward together.
So next time you’re nutting it out alone, stop and think – could two heads be better than one?! I struggle to work alone, without my favourite physio, an experienced exercise physiologist or even another OT on my team. Check out our “In the Spotlight” section to see who we’re often collaborating with for the best results.