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A Breakdown of the Interdisciplinary Team

*Original post released on 10/9/2022

The saying “it takes a village” is so incredibly accurate when it comes to healthcare and patient care. In the healthcare setting, these professionals are referred to as the “interdisciplinary team.” So who makes up this team? What does each specialty do? And what role do they play in the patient’s overall care? In this article, we’ll talk about some of the most common specialties involved in patient care and address each of these questions.

Perhaps one of the most involved specialties in a patient’s care is the nurse (RN, LVN/LPN, CNA). These personnel are responsible for monitoring the patient throughout their shift, direct patient care with activities of daily living (ADLs), administering medications, and overseeing/coordinating the patient’s care among the other specialties. The nursing staff see and interact with the patient the most and are able to note acute changes more readily than other professionals for this very reason.

Phlebotomist (if you’re lucky enough to have them) are responsible for drawing blood samples to run lab work. These can help detect acute changes in organ function when signs and symptoms have yet to become apparent. The pharmacist and pharmacy technicians are responsible for coordinating medications for patients, ensuring compatibilities, compounding drugs, making drip medications, ensuring emergency meds are readily available and replaced after use, to help prevent/address medication errors, and dose adjust medications in regards to organ function (usually regarding the liver or kidneys).

Respiratory therapists manage the patient’s respiratory care, status, and treatments. In some facilities they can insert arterial lines when needed. They also perform arterial blood gas studies that help drive the changes made in a person’s respiratory treatments. Physical therapists work with patients to rehabilitate them or prevent them from losing mobility/range of motion. Occupational therapists assist with ADLs and help patients get back to their baseline level of functioning. Speech therapists assist with language and evaluating swallowing ability after aspiration, stroke, etc.

Case managers are usually nurses who function in a role that allows them to coordinate aspects of care in anticipation of discharge or transferring to another facility. They help set up home health services, obtaining of durable medical equipment (such as oxygen, wheelchair, walker, etc.) for the patient to use at home. They can also be of assistance when downgrading or upgrading in the level of care becomes necessary. The HUC (hospital unit coordinator) is typically a secretarial role for the unit and its staff. They coordinate communications on the unit, regulate visitations, notifications sent to providers, and notification of impending admissions/discharges.

XR techs and radiologist assist in obtaining X-rays of the patients and interpreting the films so appropriate results can be relayed for proper medical treatment. Doctors (MDs) of various specialties are responsible for initiating orders for specific care tasks, medications, procedures, lines/drains to be inserted or removed, and performing surgical procedures. They coordinate with other MDs and specialties to ensure the patient is receiving holistic, effective care.

The wound care team is responsible for performing initial thorough skin and wound assessments on newly admitted patients. They are also, then, responsible for managing wound care. At times, they may be responsible for educating other specialties about the patient’s wounds, appropriate methods of care, and any precautions to take.

Registered dieticians help evaluate the patient’s intake needs/requirements to ensure proper caloric intake, promotion of wound healing, etc. They are the specialty that selects or works with the pharmacist/MD to select appropriate enteral or parenteral nutrition solutions or methods to meet the patient’s dietary needs, wound healing needs, and lab-related needs. Lastly, we cannot forget housekeeping and maintenance staff. Housekeeping ensures cleanliness of the patient’s room and the healthcare environment. They also make sure rooms are cleaned in between patients and ready for any admission. Maintenance is responsible for ensuring the proper functioning of medical equipment and many of the appliances we take for granted like electricity, heat/air conditioning for temperature regulation, bathroom functioning, computer functioning, etc.

There are many players involved the patient’s health management. The interdisciplinary team includes so many specialties, and I’m sure that I’ve neglected to mention someone. The main point of this article is to show you how extensive the team truly is, give you quick insight about their role, and to emphasize the importance of teamwork. When specialties work together by communicating and anticipating each other’s needs, not only does it facilitate smoother delivery of care but it also helps ensure the patient receives the best and most appropriate care for their reason for admission. Take a moment to appreciate the role you play in your patient’s care and the role others play in their care and your interventions as well.

Until next time, happy studying!

Andra Alyse

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