Teamwork and patient safety in dynamic domains of healthcare: a review of the literature

Acta Anaesthesiol Scand. 2009 Feb;53(2):143-51. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-6576.2008.01717.x.


Aims/background: This review examines current research on teamwork in highly dynamic domains of healthcare such as operating rooms, intensive care, emergency medicine, or trauma and resuscitation teams with a focus on aspects relevant to the quality and safety of patient care.

Results: Evidence from three main areas of research supports the relationship between teamwork and patient safety: (1) Studies investigating the factors contributing to critical incidents and adverse events have shown that teamwork plays an important role in the causation and prevention of adverse events. (2) Research focusing on healthcare providers' perceptions of teamwork demonstrated that (a) staff's perceptions of teamwork and attitudes toward safety-relevant team behavior were related to the quality and safety of patient care and (b) perceptions of teamwork and leadership style are associated with staff well-being, which may impact clinician' ability to provide safe patient care. (3) Observational studies on teamwork behaviors related to high clinical performance have identified patterns of communication, coordination, and leadership that support effective teamwork.

Conclusion: In recent years, research using diverse methodological approaches has led to significant progress in team research in healthcare. The challenge for future research is to further develop and validate instruments for team performance assessment and to develop sound theoretical models of team performance in dynamic medical domains integrating evidence from all three areas of team research identified in this review. This will help to improve team training efforts and aid the design of clinical work systems supporting effective teamwork and safe patient care.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Communication Barriers
  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Goals
  • Group Processes
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Interdisciplinary Communication*
  • Leadership
  • Medical Errors
  • Operating Rooms
  • Patient Care Team*
  • Resuscitation
  • Safety*