This is How to Fit in on a Multidisciplinary Team at Work

Multidisciplinary Team

You’ve been asked to join a multidisciplinary team in your hospital. Your official reaction when your boss gives you the assignment: “Of course, I’d be happy to represent the profession in this capacity.” Your internal thought: “Yikes! How am I going to stand up to the physicians, nurses, and others on the team?”

AARC members who regularly take part in multidisciplinary activities in their facilities have some great advice —

Pamela Neuenfeldt, MPH, RRT, says she makes it a point to treat everyone with respect, look for ways to make things better, and be considerate of other people’s space and time. “By not isolating ourselves within our discipline I believe we gain a greater understanding of human nature and we have an opportunity to receive more respect as a profession,” says the therapist. She must know what she’s doing: Neuenfeldt received the first ever Collaborative Colleague Award at her facility.

“Open communication is vital,” says Sandy Saffa, RRT, noting she tries to come off as a “take charge” person, but in a “comforting and reassuring” way. “Listen to other team members, show respect to their specialty,” she continues. “Show that a team effort is very important and praise successes.”

Darla Mondragon agrees self-confidence is essential. “I walk into the meeting room knowing I am a valued part of the multidisciplinary team. I come prepared with patient information, I stay patient centered, and I ask questions of other team members so that I can better understand the overall needs of the patient and their families.”

As an RT who often works in a busy ER, Sandy Behrendsen, BS, RRT, believes communication is the most important thing to remember when working with other types of clinicians. “We have cell phones here, so every morning I text every nurse in a group and let them know I am their RT for the day. We have multiple ways they can look it up but sending them a quick message makes it easier for them.”

Chris Garvey, FNP, MSN, MPA, MAACVPR, who heads up pulmonary rehab at a large hospital in California, cites one of her RT co-workers as a great example of how someone can integrate themselves on the multidisciplinary team. “My co-worker RT has an exercise credential, a teaching credential, and is recognized for her expertise in exercise prescription and implementation, secretion clearance, dyspnea control, and many other areas. I believe this is because she is a skilled RT with interest in learning and advancing her skills and knowledge to the highest level possible.”

Theresa Pignotti, MPA, RRT, CPFT, makes sure other clinicians know she is ready, willing, and able to help in any way needed. “When I receive a call for help, I go in person to assist,” she says. “I intervene with the other service.” She believes that’s the reason why her colleagues in and out of respiratory care view her as both reliable and supportive.

As the supervisor of six pulmonary laboratories for his large cancer hospital in New York, James Sullivan, BA, RPFT, works with newly-hired RNs, NPs, and fellows to get them up to speed on what pulmonary function testing is all about. In addition to both in-lab and lecture-based training, he perform PFTs on them so they can get a firsthand look at the field. “Having the RNs, NPs, and fellows actually perform the PFT maneuvers lets them really understand what the patients feel, and they can see what we do,” he says. “Exposing other staff to our labs improves the reputation of them and the staff, which in turn can only help pulmonary diagnostics as a profession.”

Gail Dutcher, RRT, RPFT, AE-C, who works with multidisciplinary team members every day as the only RT in a pediatric hospital-associated Ambulatory Specialty Building, emphasizes the importance of flexibility. “That means saying yes to some scheduling times that may be inconvenient and offering to do some things that are a bit out of the usual job description to make the process work,” she says. She also stresses the need to build a personal rapport with fellow team members. “Never underestimate the power of remembering someone’s birthday or asking about a son or daughter’s basketball game last weekend,” advises the therapist.

When he was a staff therapist, Bradley Boynton, RRT, always made it a point to attend rounds, and he believes taking an active role there has paid off for his career. “I now work as a pediatric pulmonary disease specialist,” he says. In addition to serving in various outpatient settings like the cystic fibrosis clinic, pediatric pulmonary clinic, and aerodisgestive clinic, he coordinates patient-family education for his hospital’s home-going tracheostomy patients.

Patrick Daley’s rather unique role as equipment specialist for his department brings him in touch not just with other clinicians, but other hospital departments that many RTs rarely interface with, from biomed to facilities planning to engineering. “I’m the guy they call to make machines do things they aren’t supposed to do, or the one who has to explain why they can’t,” says the RRT, CPFT. “MDs, RNs, engineering, biomed, the cath lab all love me!”

“Being a ‘do-er’ and contributing to the multidisciplinary team makes you valuable, and with that, affords one the opportunities that others not so inclined to participate may not be offered,” says Jon Inkrott, RRT-ACCS. He believes multidisciplinary teams are like other types of teams, in that they want to have their best players on the field, and he tries to make sure he’s one of them by being available to assist other disciplines whenever needed and keeping up-to-date on evidence-based care. “These opportunities may lead to participation in research projects, education opportunities, maybe spark ideas for poster presentations or being recognized by your peers, and certainly equate to annual merit increases, which we all appreciate,” says Inkrott.

Kenneth Miller, MEd, MSRT, RRT-ACCS, RRT-NPS, AE-C, FAARC, believes the door of advancement definitely enlarges for anyone willing to add value to the multidisciplinary team. “The RRT should be prepared to discuss current interventions and be proactive to suggest other interventions that can improve current patient status,” he says. Providing bedside clinical education for the team on new technology or unconventional therapies is a great role for therapists to take on as well.

Donna Tanner, BSRC, RRT-ACCS, says her facility stresses the multidisciplinary team in everything it does and her department makes sure therapists are living up to those expectations by having them attend multidisciplinary rounds and meetings, provide in-services, and treat other members of the team with professionalism and respect. “I think a team approach is essential to sustaining our careers,” she says. “There are still so many misconceptions of what we do, and being an integral part of a team allows us to take center stage at times and shine.”