The aim of this study was to describe family physicians' perspectives of their role in the primary care team and factors that facilitate and hinder teamwork. A qualitative study was conducted employing individual interviews with 19 academic/community-based family physicians who were part of interprofessional primary care teams in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Professional responsibilities and roles of physicians within the team and the facilitators and barriers to teamwork were investigated. Interviews were audiotaped, transcribed and analysed for emerging themes. The study findings revealed that family physicians consistently perceived themselves as having the leadership role on in the primary care team. Facilitators of teamwork included: communication; trust and respect; defined roles/responsibilities of team members; co-location; task shifting to other health professionals; and appropriate payment mechanisms. Barriers to teamwork included: undefined roles/responsibilities; lack of space; frequent staff turnover; network boundaries; and a culture of power and control. The findings suggest that moving family physicians toward more integrative and interdependent functioning within the primary care team will require overcoming the culture of traditional professional roles, addressing facilitators and barriers to teamwork, and providing training in teamwork.
Keywords: Family physician; interprofessional relations; interviewpatient care team; primary health care; qualitative research.