What is Teamwork in Nursing? (With Examples, Importance, & How to Improve)

Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN

Are you a nurse searching for ways to build strong relationships, improve patient care, and promote a good work environment? If so, the key to making this happen is teamwork. Perhaps you know teamwork is essential but find yourself asking, "Where can I start, and what are some ways to know how to improve teamwork in nursing?” In this article, I will share some insight from my nursing career, including 15 expert tips to improve teamwork in nursing. As you read further, you will find reasons why teamwork is so important in nursing and learn the consequences of lack of teamwork. I’ll also share some sample scenarios using teamwork in nursing with examples of poor teamwork and good teamwork.

What Is Teamwork In Nursing?

Teamwork in nursing is a patient-centered approach focused on shared goals among nurses. The concept uses each nursing team member's unique strengths and skills to promote the delivery of high-quality, effective nursing care and promote positive healthcare outcomes for all patients.

5 Reasons Why Teamwork Is So Important In Nursing

1. Teamwork in nursing results in better patient care, which improves patient outcomes.

The primary goal of any healthcare team should be to provide high-quality patient care and help patients recover. Nurses who purposefully integrate teamwork in their approach to care see better patient responses and improved outcomes.

2. Teamwork and collaboration in nursing help build strong professional relationships.

Nurses who work together can learn about one another and grow their professional networks. Through effective communication and collaboration, nurses inspire one another to reach career goals, share expertise, which help promote strong nursing and interdisciplinary relationships.

3. When nurses work together as a team, there is a reduced risk to patient safety.

Research indicates more than 250,000 preventable deaths occur within the healthcare system nationwide each year. Efforts to improve communication in teamwork reduce the risk of medication errors, inappropriate therapies, and treatment delays, positively impacting patient safety.

4. The increased efficiency in patient care due to effective teamwork in nursing leads to lower healthcare costs.

The cost of healthcare is a concern for everyone. Nurses who use communication and collaboration to provide patient care make better use of resources resulting in decreased costs.

5. Teamwork in nursing promotes efficiency in patient care, conducive to a healing environment for patients, and job satisfaction for nurses.

When nurses are involved in a team approach to patient care, they are more involved in treatment plans, and the delivery of services tends to be more efficient. Patients who receive quality, efficient patient care are more likely to be compliant with treatment regimens, supporting improved patient outcomes. Nurses who are part of a team that practices efficiency in care tend to be happier with their jobs.

What Are The 7 Key Elements Of Good Teamwork In Nursing?

Effective teamwork in nursing is centered around the client and involves shared goals focused on measurable outcomes. The following are examples of key elements that help promote good teamwork among nurses.

1. Communication:

One of the most essential elements of good teamwork is communication. The way nurses communicate with one another can positively or negatively impact not only the quality of patient care but also the relationships within the healthcare team.

2. Collaboration:

Teamwork in nursing requires collaborative care coordination. When nurses work together, each team member's skills and strengths can be utilized to achieve high-quality patient care and improved patient and workplace satisfaction.

3. Coordination:

Care coordination is essential to improving how healthcare systems work for patients, promoting improved safety and efficiency. When implemented correctly, care coordination will positively impact outcomes for patients, nurses, and other members of the interdisciplinary healthcare team.

4. Accountability:

When nurses exercise personal and professional accountability, their behavior improves job satisfaction, fosters better work relationships, and helps the team work more efficiently together. Accountability in nursing helps ensure every member of the team does their job, without neglecting responsibilities to someone else. Nurses who demonstrate accountability take ownership for their actions and accept an instruction to help improve, as needed.

5. Integrity:

One of the most essential characteristics a nurse can develop is integrity. Integrity leads to the decision to do right by others. Nurses with high levels of integrity are honest, dependable, loyal, non-judgmental, and trustworthy. A few ways to demonstrate integrity and build teamwork in nursing include actively working to build and maintain a trusting relationship with patients, their families, and your peers, leading by example, and being willing to give and receive feedback.

6. Sharing ideas with one another:

When nurses work well together, they feel comfortable sharing ideas and suggestions to help improve patient care and work experiences. Nurses who share ideas in a trusting and respectful environment encourage colleagues to become more creative and promote more productive planning sessions, which positively impacts every aspect of patient care and employee experiences.

7. Being supportive of others:

Nursing is a rewarding career, but it can also be stressful. Having a strong team environment where support for peers is practiced can help build bonds of reliance and dependability. Showing support for coworkers is an excellent way to build strong teams in nursing.


Teamwork is an essential part of effective patient care and should be practiced by every member of the nursing and interdisciplinary team. To implement effective teamwork, it is essential to include open communication among team members and make member support a priority. The following are a few scenarios demonstrating poor and good examples of teamwork in nursing.

1. Scenario: Demonstrating Leadership in Teamwork

Nurse Davis is the charge nurse for a busy pediatric ward. Today, Nurse Davis is notified that one of her nurses, Nurse Shay, is ill and must leave the hospital. There are fifteen patients on the pediatric floor and two nurses left to continue providing care until the next shift.

Poor Teamwork:

Nurse Davis sends messages to the nurses working on her ward to notify them that Nurse Shay has left for the day. The nurses feel bad that Nurse Shay is sick but are not interested in taking on additional patients. Nurse Davis reminds them that she is the charge nurse and has other things to do, so they need to reorganize their work and care for Nurse Shay's patients.

Good Teamwork:

Nurse Davis notifies the nursing team that Nurse Shay has become ill and left work. She speaks with each nurse and nursing assistant to check on patient statuses and to find out who needs help. The remaining nurses understand Nurse Shay’s patients need a nurse to provide care and offer to split the patient load. The nursing assistants also make additional rounds to verify that all patients have everything they need. Nurse Davis assists the nurses by ordering medication from the pharmacy and supplies, as needed. She makes it clear to the nursing team that she is available for support and help by staying near the nurse’s desk or being present in the hall and easily accessible.

2. Scenario: Collaborative Teamwork to Reduce Patient Anxiety

Mr. Jones is a 45-year-old man with no significant medical history who has arrived at the emergency room with complaints of shortness of breath and chest pain. Mr. Jones has arrived at the ER alone and says he wishes someone in his family was with him. One of the nurses in the ER, Nurse Debra, recognizes Mr. Jones and knows his family.

Poor Teamwork:

Although Nurse Debra recognizes Mr. Jones, she has other patients to care for and chooses to carry on with her assignments. Other members of the nursing team attempt to calm Mr. Jones so they can find out who he would like to call and gather as much information as possible to facilitate his care and outreach to his family.

Good Teamwork:

Nurse Debra tells the charge nurse she knows Mr. Jones and his family. While other members of the nursing team assess Mr. Jones and begin initiating care, Nurse Debra calls Mr. Jones' next of kin to notify them where he is and that he is requesting someone from the family to be with him. Someone on the nursing team sits with Mr. Jones until a loved one arrives, assuring him that he is not alone. Because Mr. Jones is no longer alone, he begins to calm down, and his vital signs return to normal, improving his health outcome.

3. Scenario: Unusually heavy patient load

The Med-Surg floor has been extremely busy, and the nursing team is experiencing an unusual increase in patient load. Nurse James observes a fellow nurse who appears overwhelmed by the task of caring for two demanding clients. No other nurses have helped, so Nurse James assumes Nurse Kayla is going to be fine.

Poor Teamwork:

Nurse James recognizes that Nurse Kayla has a heavy workload and that a few of her patients are more demanding than others. However, because no other nurses have stepped up to help, he thinks Nurse Kayla will figure out a way to manage and goes about his day without helping.

Good Teamwork:

Nurse James recalls what it feels like to have several patients requiring care and what it means when team members offer help. He lets the charge nurse know he is almost finished with his med pass and patient assessments and offers to lend a helping hand to Nurse Kayla. The charge nurse shows appreciation to Nurse James for his willingness to help. The charge nurse personally checks on Nurse Kayla and the other nurses on the unit to determine who needs assistance and works with the team to ensure all patients are provided for, and nurses are not too overwhelmed.


(The following are 15 Expert Tips to help nurses improve their teamwork skills.)

1. Learn effective communication skills.

It is impossible to overstate the importance of effective communication as part of teamwork in nursing care. Nurses who learn the art of communication find ways to relate to others and promote teamwork. Teamwork in nursing cannot work unless team members feel like they can talk openly, voice opinions, and make suggestions. Be respectful when others communicate with you by giving them time to finish what they are saying and asking for feedback. Engaged listeners are essential to effective communication.

2. Give credit to others for a job well done.

Have you ever accomplished something that made you feel proud, and no one seemed to notice? When this happens, it can make you feel like your efforts are irrelevant to others. Take the time to compliment others for the work they do as part of your team. Teamwork is not about competing with one another but is more about building one another up. If you are careful to acknowledge the efforts of your colleagues, you build stronger relationships and create an environment that fosters hard work and a willingness to go the extra mile again and again.

3. Avoid trying to micro-manage other team members.

While supervisors or administrators have an obligation to manage teams, others should not. In some cases, more experienced team members feel they have a right to tell others what to do or how to do it. Instead of flaunting your seniority, try to relate to team members as your equals. Leave management to managers and do your job while being supportive of your peers.

4. Two ears, one mouth.

When I was a teenager, my mother used to tell my sister and me, "You have two ears and one mouth because you should spend twice as much time listening as you do talking." While I probably didn't appreciate that advice at the time, I now understand the true value in what she said and how it can be applied to every aspect of our lives. Teamwork in nursing requires give and take. Nurses who value teamwork and the benefits of strong teams understand there needs to be a balance to prevent resentment and negative work environments. Take the time to listen to your coworkers and make them feel their thoughts and feelings are important.

5. Volunteer to be a mentor.

Confident, experienced nurses have a wealth of knowledge to offer to their colleagues. If you want to promote teamwork in nursing, volunteer to mentor other nurses. Encourage your colleagues to learn new skills and grow their professional network. Promoting professional development by mentoring others helps build strong nursing teams.

6. Adopt and promote a patient-centered mindset.

The most effective teams in nursing approach their work with the patient’s well-being and long-term outcomes in mind. When nurses exercise efforts focused on improving patient outcomes, teams are strengthened.

7. Grow your skills.

Nurses who are willing to grow their knowledge and skillset have a profound impact on the strength of their team. An excellent way to improve teamwork in nursing is to allow team members the opportunity to share their knowledge and experiences with one another.

8. Be willing to be the first person to promote teamwork between yourself and your colleagues.

Some people are natural leaders, while others feel more apprehensive. If you are confident in your knowledge and skills as a nurse, be willing to initiate efforts that promote teamwork. Keep in mind, you do not have to have a management position or be a charge nurse to demonstrate the qualities effective leaders possess. You can promote teamwork by offering to help a coworker who is overwhelmed, answering call lights for the ward clerk who needs a break, or picking up food trays to assist dietary. Anything you do that shows a willingness to help others and promote the well-being of your patients and team members helps encourage teamwork in nursing.

9. Embrace the diversity that makes up your team.

While there are characteristics that make a good nurse, one of the great things about nursing is that there is no cookie-cutter mold for what a nurse should be. Instead of trying to change your team members, learn to embrace the differences you share. Recognizing what makes others unique and showing appreciation for those differences creates a sense of pride in others that drives them to want to do more.

10. Understand the role and responsibilities of each team member.

When team members are unsure of their responsibilities, it can create tension within the team. If you work in a supervisory role, it is your responsibility to ensure your team members are aware of their assignments. As a non-management team member, you are not responsible for supervising others. However, knowing what is expected of each team member will help you gauge your progress in daily assignments and recognize when a coworker needs help.

11. Practice integrity.

Nurses who practice integrity demonstrate honesty, fairness, and strong moral principles. When you have integrity, it speaks volumes about the kind of person you are. Your team members will recognize you as someone they can depend on to put forth best practice efforts, and they can rely upon when they need a helping hand, which is especially important to promote teamwork in nursing.

12. Encourage others to grow and expand their professional skills.

While each team member has specific roles and responsibilities, no one should feel as if their potential growth is limited. Instead, team members should feel empowered in their endeavors to learn, grow, and expand their professional network and skills. When we embrace the efforts of team members to grow and learn, they feel appreciated and, as a result, work harder to be an integral part of the team. This is an example of how appreciation for diversity, growth, and encouragement help build teamwork in nursing.

13. Be willing to accept change.

Effective teamwork sometimes requires change. For some people, the idea of revamping organizational structure or methods of operation can feel a bit overwhelming. However, it is necessary to embrace changes, especially when they promote more effective patient care and the strength of the team.

14. Make personal connections with your team members.

Getting to know your team members on a personal level is a great way to build a strong work relationship. Whether you become close friends and engage in activities outside of work are up to you. Even if you decide to keep your relationship strictly professional with no outside activities, it is okay to get to know your coworkers on a personal level. Ask about their family, their hobbies, or their dreams. When a person feels you care about what is important to them, the things which are important to you begin to matter to them as well. Having a mutual appreciation for what is important to others is an excellent way to promote strong work relationships and build teamwork in nursing.

15. Promote a holistic approach to patient care.

Holistic nursing is an approach to nursing practice focused on healing the whole person. It refers to the provision of patient care based on a mutual understanding of their psychological, physical, spiritual, and emotional needs. Nurses who practice a holistic approach to patient care are typically more in tune with their colleagues, as well, which is conducive to an environment that fosters a team approach to care.

4 Consequences Of Poor Teamwork In Nursing

Teamwork is an essential part of an effective nursing team. Understanding ways to promote teamwork in nursing and actively seeking ways to implement them can positively impact every aspect of patient care. There are consequences of poor teamwork in nursing, as well. The following are a few examples of what can happen when nurses fail to practice teamwork.

1. Increased stress in the workplace:

When coworkers fail to work together, there is often increased stress within the team. Colleagues feel anxious or frustrated because communication efforts are lacking, nurse-patient relationships are strained. The increased stress experienced by lack of teamwork in nursing can also lead to other serious consequences, as mentioned below.

2. Increased risk of errors in patient care:

When there is a failure of teamwork and collaboration in nursing, it can result in errors in patient care. Nurses who prefer to do things on their own may not communicate with members of the interdisciplinary team, which can result in omitted or duplicated treatment. These types of errors can result in serious harm to patients and put nurses at risk of losing their jobs.

3. Conflict among team members:

Lack of teamwork in nursing can lead to conflict among team members. Whether the conflict is the direct result of one team member shirking responsibility or someone not accepting responsibility for their actions, conflict among team members can lead to strained relationships, poor job performance, and negative patient outcomes.

4. Poor management of time and resources:

When nurses fail to work together to accomplish goals, they tend to waste valuable time and resources. Wasting time means delays in patient care or treatments, which can cause negative patient responses or outcomes. Poorly managed resources result in increased cost of goods and supplies, which results in increased healthcare costs.

Useful Resources To Improve Teamwork In Nursing

If you are interested in bettering yourself, promoting strong teams, and improving patient outcomes, there are several resources from which to draw inspiration. Social media, online communities, books, and videos offer insight on measures you can use to improve teamwork and collaboration in nursing. The following are a few examples of Reddit communities, YouTube videos, podcasts, and books discussing the importance of teamwork.


What Happened to Teamwork?
Code Blue: Poor Teamwork
What Do You Think About Teamwork Nursing?

YouTube Videos

Teamwork Tips for Nursing
Why is Teamwork Important in Healthcare?
Nursing Teamwork


The FreshRN Podcast: What Nursing Teamwork Practically Looks Like at the Bedside
Healthcare Experience Matters: Improving Nurse-Physician Teamwork for Better Patient Experiences


Collaborative Caring: Stories and Reflections on Teamwork in Health Care
The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate the Three Essential Virtues

My Final Thoughts

Teamwork is essential in providing effective patient-centered nursing care. Nurses who are dedicated to improving patient outcomes and building strong professional relationships are interested in knowing how to improve teamwork in nursing. By implementing the 15 expert tips to improve teamwork in nursing discussed in this article, nurses can experience increased satisfaction in the workplace, feel encouraged to grow personally and professionally, and become effective members of the healthcare team.


1. Will Lack of Teamwork Impact My Nursing Career?

Lack of teamwork and collaboration in nursing can undoubtedly impact your nursing career. If you are not willing to work as part of a team, the likelihood of having opportunities to lead teams decreases. Successful nurses understand the importance of teamwork and its effect on patient care and work and environments. Those who promote teamwork are more likely to experience opportunities to advance and take on new roles.

2. Usually, How Long Does It Take for a Nurse to Improve Their Teamwork Skills?

Nurses can implement measures to improve teamwork skills that have immediate results. For example, practicing active listening, supporting team members, and demonstrating a willingness to help others are excellent ways to improve teamwork in nursing.

3. Do All Types of Nurses Require Good Teamwork Skills?

The benefits of good teamwork in nursing cannot be overstated. From developing strong nurse-patient and professional relationships, improving patient outcomes, and offering more cost-effective care, the effects of teamwork in nursing are far-reaching. Therefore, all nurses should strive to learn, implement, and grow good teamwork skills.

4. Are Nurses with Good Teamwork Skills Happier?

When nurses have access to well-organized teams who practice effective communication and teamwork, they are typically happier with their jobs. According to an NCBI report, nurses who reported high levels of interdisciplinary teamwork were more likely to have lower rates of burnout and higher job satisfaction rates.

Darby Faubion BSN, RN
Darby Faubion is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years of experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels. Because of her love of nursing education, Darby became a test-taking strategist and NCLEX prep coach and assists nursing graduates across the United States who are preparing to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).