Healthcare Professional, Are YOU a Member of The A-Team?

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

By Mary Koloroutis, MS, RN, Consultant at Creative Health Care Management

Effective teamwork is more than just a “nice to have.” It is essential for safety, retention, continuity of care, positive patient/family experiences, and overall effectiveness.  The Institute of Safe Medical Practices (ISMP) recently published new findings in a study called “Unresolved Disrespectful Behavior in Healthcare.” The ISMP expected to see improvements since its last survey, 10 years prior, but the results show that disrespectful behavior continues to undermine healthcare teams. 

“The results of our 2003 and 2013 surveys expose healthcare’s continued tolerance and indifference to disrespectful behavior. These behaviors are clearly learned, tolerated, and reinforced in the healthcare culture, and little improvement has been made during the last decade.” (ISMP, 2013) 

Do you suppose that people who are behaving disrespectfully in teams are in touch with the meaning and purpose of their work? Do you suppose they are fully engaged? 

It's Very Important For Teams to Work Successfully Together

Health care professionals are consistent in their thoughts about working as part of a team. Here is what they tell us: 

“I would rather work short-staffed with a team of people who are all on board than to work with a full staff of people who aren’t in synch with the reason we’re here.” (Koloroutis & Trout, 2012) 

We have found that when people hear that they will be working with those whom they consider members of their “A” team they feel energized enough to take on more, knowing that the time and workload will flow smoothly. 

Some Team Members are Energizing

Here are the characteristics of the team members who energize their peers:

  • positive
  • helpful (fully responsible and accountable)
  • self-motivated
  • proactive
  • fully engaged
  • highly committed 

If people hear that they’re going to have to work with team members who demonstrate lack of responsibility and a victim mentality, they are suddenly “too tired” to take on more or become hyper-responsible trying to compensate for the lack of teamwork; either way the workload will be heavy and the time will be difficult to manage. 

Some Team Members are Energy Drainers

Here are the characteristics of the team members who drain the energy out of their peers: 

  • engage in frequent complaining,
  • show little, if any, initiative
  • demonstrate an apparent apathy toward good patient care or helping their fellow team members 

Self-Assessment: Am I Part of the “A” Team? 

Now let’s look at what sort of team member you are in a little more nuanced way. I invite you to reflect on your answers to the assessment below and then ask yourself this question: Would I be considered a member of the “A” team? 

Healthcare Employee Assessment and Engagement

Note the pattern of your responses to the self-assessment and reflect on the following questions. You may also wish to use these questions in a team huddle or reflection session. 

  • What helps me sustain a high level of contribution to my work and to my team?
  • What stops me from making a higher level of contribution to my work and to my team?
  • What have been moments or longer periods of times when I have definitely worked as an “A” team member?
  • What was it about those times that tapped into the best in me?
  • What have been times that I have not worked as an “A” team player?
  • What do I need from others, from my supervisor, and from my colleagues to help me be an even more valuable member of my team?
  • What might I do more of (or less of) to make sure that I am taking care of myself so that I can contribute to my fullest capacity? (Koloroutis & Trout, 2012, pp. 255-259) 

The stakes are high. People’s lives are in our hands. Because our work is about people’s lives, we don’t have the option of not working well as fully participating and highly engaged members of health care teams. Your commitment to being positive, helpful, self-motivated, proactive, and fully engaged is a commitment to the very best patient care possible. And that is a noble commitment.  

As a co-creator, author, and editor of the Relationship-Based Care series of books and seminars, Mary helps health care organizations create a framework for delivering world-class care with strong underlying values and principles, and then works with them to implement that framework. Her most recent book, See Me as a Person: Creating Therapeutic Relationships with Patients and their Families, co-authored with Michael Trout, helps clinicians in all disciplines to connect authentically with the patients and families in their care no matter how chaotic their care environments may be. Contact Mary


Institute for Safe Medical Practices, (October 3, 2013). Unresolved disrespectful behavior in healthcare. Medication SafetyAlert! 18 (20) 1-4.

Koloroutis, M., & Trout, M. (2012). See me as a person: Creating therapeutic relationships with patients and their families.Minneapolis, MN: Creative Health Care Management.