1. Alexander, Mary MA, RN, CRNI(R), CAE, FAAN
  2. INS Chief Executive Officer Editor, Journal of Infusion Nursing

Article Content

As infusion nurses, we are committed to providing our patients with the safest and highest-quality care. We are well-educated, skilled, autonomous professionals. Autonomy, however, does not preclude working as part of a team to ensure positive patient outcomes.

Mary Alexander, MA, ... - Click to enlarge in new windowMary Alexander, MA, RN, CRNI(R), CAE, FAAN

This special Focus issue of the Journal of Infusion Nursing presents 5 different aspects of teamwork and building alliances in the health care arena: using evidence-based research; developing and maintaining an infusion alliance; preparing a financial analysis; and benchmarking and collecting data. Each author advocates interdisciplinary collaboration and communication to eliminate errors, improve patient care, and, consequently, improve an organization's bottom line.


Teamwork prevents negative outcomes by alerting clinicians of untoward events so that appropriate interventions can be implemented. It also improves communication among colleagues, supports a positive work environment, and promotes employee satisfaction and improved productivity.


Teamwork begins with understanding the different cultures and experiences of each member. Physicians rarely learn "people skills" in medical schools. They often study in isolation, and upon graduation, step into a world that reveres them and thinks they can do no wrong. So a physician might think that teamwork is accomplished when a nurse performs a requested task-no collaboration necessary. A nurse's experiences would probably lead her to have a vastly different take on teamwork. Just being asked for input to help solve a problem might be her idea of successful teamwork. Learning how to be an effective team member should take place in medical and nursing schools; it is much more difficult to break bad habits and change behaviors in mid-career.


Great teams get the "right" people on board from the start. The "right" people are disciplined and self-motivated; they want to be part of something great.1 A strong team includes many disciplines, levels of education, experiences, and perspectives. Independent thinking is also essential to making a great team; disagreement and dissent can ultimately lead to a decision that represents what all team members think.2 A team approach does not detract from one's talent, authority, or power but enhances it by ensuring that the best possible decisions are being made.3


The infusion nurse can take on any number of roles on the team: caregiver, patient advocate and educator, family liaison, and manager. By drawing on the team's diverse knowledge base, skills, and experience, as well as communicating and collaborating, an infusion nurse can lead an effective team toward integrating and selecting therapies with the most practical risk-benefit ratio for the patient. In an increasingly complex health care system, we need to rely on teams more than ever so that as clinicians we are able to provide the best and safest care.3


Financial considerations have given health care organizations good reason for reevaluating the concept of teams. With the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services denying reimbursement for hospital-acquired infections, administrators have an incentive for working with nurses, physicians, and pharmacists, among others, to develop specialty teams. A successful team will demonstrate its advantages to patients and the organization by providing outcomes data (eg, rates of CR-BSIs, phlebitis) rather than simply reciting the number of procedures performed (eg, number of peripherally inserted central catheters placed in a month).


This Focus issue is especially important as it provides vital information on the significance that infusion teams play within today's complex health care system. From defining the infusion nurse's scope of practice, translating evidence into clinical practice, benchmarking and collecting data, and implementing a team, to analyzing relevant financial elements for creating an effective business plan, these articles will be invaluable as you promote your infusion team.


Mary Alexander




1. Collins J. Good to Great. New York, NY: HarperCollins; 2001:41-44. [Context Link]


2. Surowiecki J. The Wisdom of Crowds. New York, NY: Doubleday; 2004: xix, 5-21. [Context Link]


3. Pronovost P, Vohr E. Safe Patients, Smart Hospitals. New York, NY: Hudson Street Press; 2010:43-44. [Context Link]