The concept of shared mental models in healthcare collaboration

J Adv Nurs. 2014 Jul;70(7):1479-88. doi: 10.1111/jan.12307. Epub 2013 Nov 17.


Aim: To report an analysis of the concept of shared mental models in health care.

Background: Shared mental models have been described as facilitators of effective teamwork. The complexity and criticality of the current healthcare system requires shared mental models to enhance safe and effective patient/client care. Yet, the current concept definition in the healthcare literature is vague and, therefore, difficult to apply consistently in research and practice.

Design: Concept analysis.

Data sources: Literature for this concept analysis was retrieved from several databases, including CINAHL, PubMed and MEDLINE (EBSCO Interface), for the years 1997-2013.

Methods: Walker and Avant's approach to concept analysis was employed and, following Paley's guidance, embedded in extant theory from the team literature.

Results: Although teamwork and collaboration are discussed frequently in healthcare literature, the concept of shared mental models in that context is not as commonly found but is increasing in appearance. Our concept analysis defines shared mental models as individually held knowledge structures that help team members function collaboratively in their environments and are comprised of the attributes of content, similarity, accuracy and dynamics.

Conclusion: This theoretically grounded concept analysis provides a foundation for a middle-range descriptive theory of shared mental models in nursing and health care. Further research concerning the impact of shared mental models in the healthcare setting can result in development and refinement of shared mental models to support effective teamwork and collaboration.

Keywords: collaboration; concept analysis; health care; nursing; shared mental models; teamwork.

MeSH terms

  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Models, Organizational*