Understanding Teamwork in WA’s Newborn Emergency Transport Service
In 2017, researchers from the Centre for Transformative Work Design at UWA conducted a teamwork analysis for the Newborn Emergency Transport Service of Western Australia (NETSWA). NETS staff have very challenging jobs. The primary aim of NETS WA is move sick newborn infants to a specialist hospital for treatment. NETS WA retrieves infants from all hospitals in Western Australia. NETS WA staff rotate regularly and the team make–up changes daily.
This was an exciting and novel project as, to our knowledge, no teamwork analysis in neonatal retrieval medicine has been conducted to date. To guide the analysis of teamwork, we adapted an evidence-based teamwork model to apply it to the NETS context, pictured below.
Anu Bharadwaj (Master’s & PhD student in Organisational Psychology) accompanied various NETS teams on several retrievals around the Perth Metropolitan Area to understand the day-to-day work context and work flow of NETS. She then conducted 16 face-to-face interviews, and carried out a brief survey, with NETS-trained doctors, nurses and ambulance transport officers.
We uncovered several positive findings about teamwork in NETS, including:
1. Well designed individual jobs. Despite high levels of work demands (e.g., workload, complexity), the jobs also had sufficient job resources (e.g., supervisor and colleague support, autonomy) to help staff deal with the high work demands. Good work design for individual team members helps ensure that they have enough cognitive, emotional and physical resources to undertake effective teamwork.
2. Team communication, which is crucial in retrieval medicine, was rated very highly. The importance of good communication was unanimously recognised by interview participants. One way in which NETS facilitates effective communication is by having a daily morning brief at the start of the team’s shift. In these briefs, the day’s team members get to meet each other, discuss any pending issues or tasks, and engage in scenario-based learning and education.
Benefits of conducting the project
“It gave us a forum to talk openly with staff and to get their thoughts/feedback”
We also made several recommendations to further enhance and develop teamwork, which were presented to NETS staff in face-to-face feedback sessions.
Senior staff were present so that decisions could be made about moving forward. For example, one recommendation was to improve the doctors’ training for particular aspects of the transfer, and we are pleased to have learned this change has now been introduced within NETS.
Changes implemented as a result of the project
“It helped us develop & implement a formalised training session for medical staff.
We have completed our first 4-hour NETS specific training session for medical staff”
The fieldwork for this project was done by Anu Bharadwaj as part of a Masters in I/O Psychology Placement project. Anu was supervised by Professor Sharon Parker and Karina Jorritsma.