Objective: To examine the ways in which healthcare professionals work together in the ICU setting, through a consideration of the contextual, organizational, processual, and relational factors that impact their interprofessional collaboration.
Design: Data from over 350 hours of ethnographic observation and 35 semistructured interviews with clinicians in two ICUs were collected by two medical anthropologists over a period of 6 months.
Setting: Medical surgical ICUs in two urban research hospitals in Canada and the United States.
Main results: Although the concept of teamwork is often central to interventions to improve patient safety in the ICU, our observations suggest that this concept does not fully describe how interprofessional work actually occurs in this setting. With the exception of crisis situations, most interprofessional interactions in the two ICUs we studied could be better described as forms of interprofessional work other than teamwork, which include collaboration, coordination, and networking.
Conclusions: A singular notion of team is too reductive to account for the ways in which work happens in the ICU and therefore cannot be taken for granted in quality improvement initiatives or among healthcare professionals in this setting. Adapting interventions to the complex nature of interprofessional work and each ICUs unique local context is an important and necessary step to ensure the delivery of safe and effective patient care.