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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

Managing Cross-Disciplinary Teams is a Required Skill

Published May 31, 2014 8:43 PM by Glen McDaniel


Those of us in healthcare have worked in silos for so long it has become the norm. In fact we justify it by saying due to the complexity of our body of knowledge, others just will not understand. Physically and psychologically we are more comfortable sharing space and projects with colleagues who are like us.


Ideas are shared but usually within the group. Even high quality outcomes tend to have just the perspective of our peers as opposed to any other stakeholders on the outside. We serve on teams and committees, but that’s not fully cross-disciplinary because we tend to come together, give input, accept or reject ideas and then move apart to continue life as usual.


It is becoming popular to learn how to cope with inter-generational teams as the workplace changes. It is common to have two or three generations of workers side by side in the same department. But again, that is not inter-disciplinary.


In recent interactions with clients and colleagues I have seen the following odd bedfellows, if you will:

-A radiological technologist in charge of the laboratory (in a non-licensure state)

-Point of Care duties shared by a nurse coordinator and an MLS analyst

-A pathologist who is Director of Diagnostics (with the medical laboratory, imaging and sports medicine reporting to him)

-A pharmacist substituting for a pathologist for coagulation consults for laboratory testing


In the above situations, laboratorians are forced (“made to”  as opposed to “coerced”) to interact with nonlaboratorians in a significant and ongoing way. This is new territory.


Cross-disciplinary work teams are being increasingly created out of the necessity for leaner staffing, need for increased productivity and efficiency.


Mark Lanfear, a global practice leader at KellyServices, a company that specializes in providing workplace solutions, believes successful interdisciplinary teamwork always begins with a committed manager.


His prescription

-Managers must make the commitment and deliberate effort to start thinking in a more interdisciplinary fashion. They must consider various options and direct the team to think of a “common front.” What is the desired outcome? What do all the stakeholders have in common? What perspectives do they want to consider/include in the project?

-The manager must explicitly communicate the cross-disciplinary nature of the project and the interconnectedness of all team members. There are no winners or losers or head honchos based on the silos they previously occupied

-Make it clear that in the same way that communication and working together strengthen the outcome, failure to fully engage will hurt the outcome.


This cross-pollination might be a new, even uncomfortable method of relating. However as laboratorians we will find that this is an increasingly common, efficient and beneficial way of working.


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