1. Alexander, Mary BS, CRNI

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FIGURE. Mary Alexand... - Click to enlarge in new windowFIGURE.

In late November of 2003, I attended a meeting of the Nursing Organizations Alliance ("the Alliance"). This meeting-where dozens of representatives from specialty nursing organizations came together to discuss solutions to some of the nursing profession's greatest problems-started me thinking about the importance of collaboration in nursing. Collaboration has become a buzzword in healthcare, but it still seems to be something that many nurses struggle with. How exactly can we become better collaborators while still remaining focused on the specialty of infusion therapy?


We read and hear a great deal about collaboration in our profession, but how far have we really come in achieving it? Collaboration is clearly more than pulling together a multidisciplinary team of one sort or another. It's an attitude that we bring to our workplace to make sure we're doing the best job we can-and knowing when to defer to someone else when we don't have all answers. It is a proactive way of approaching our work, anticipating a patient's needs, and communicating clearly with colleagues.


We've all heard about (or seen firsthand) the stress a patient endures when one member of a healthcare team assumes that someone else will be administering the patient's medication or taking care of a catheter dressing change. As infusion nurse specialists, we find ourselves working in conjunction with nurse generalists, radiologists, physicians, and administrators to ensure that our patients receive thorough care. Effective communication is the first step in collaborating on a care plan. Taking the time to discuss a patient's plan of care with those from other departments will make it clear what is expected of each team member. Some of your coworkers may seem resistant to this process, either because it is new or they feel it is unnecessary. But taking time to review a plan of care can save mistakes later.


If you are already successfully collaborating with your colleagues, consider how you, as an infusion nurse, might develop a collaborative partnership with another department. Perhaps you are collecting data to track infection rates or device failures. Are there other departments that might benefit from this information? Much of the knowledge we, as specialists, carry around could help our colleagues do their jobs better. We need look no further than this Journal to see how many clinicians are collaborating to bring us the information that will help us to provide better care.


This month, think about how you can collaborate with your infusion and non-infusion colleagues. Each of us has something to contribute, but given the often unsupportive culture of the healthcare profession, many of us miss opportunities to collaborate because we become focused on protecting and promoting our own interests. Putting aside the competitive spirit that often gets in the way of collaboration will benefit not only our patients, but also our entire profession.