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Qual Health Care. Dec 2001; 10(Suppl 2): ii32–ii37.
PMCID: PMC1765758

Are teamwork and professional autonomy compatible, and do they result in improved hospital care?


A postal questionnaire survey of 10 022 staff nurses in 32 hospitals in England was undertaken to explore the relationship between interdisciplinary teamwork and nurse autonomy on patient and nurse outcomes and nurse assessed quality of care. The key variables of nursing autonomy, control over resources, relationship with doctors, emotional exhaustion, and decision making were found to correlate with one another as well as having a relationship with nurse assessed quality of care and nurse satisfaction. Nursing autonomy was positively correlated with better perceptions of the quality of care delivered and higher levels of job satisfaction. Analysis of team working by job characteristics showed a small but significant difference in the level of teamwork between full time and part time nurses. No significant differences were found by type of contract (permanent v short term), speciality of ward/unit, shift length, or job title. Nurses with higher teamwork scores were significantly more likely to be satisfied with their jobs, planned to stay in them, and had lower burnout scores. Higher teamwork scores were associated with higher levels of nurse assessed quality of care, perceived quality improvement over the last year, and confidence that patients could manage their care when discharged. Nurses with higher teamwork scores also exhibited higher levels of autonomy and were more involved in decision making. A strong association was found between teamwork and autonomy; this interaction suggests synergy rather than conflict. Organisations should therefore be encouraged to promote nurse autonomy without fearing that it might undermine teamwork.

Key Words: teamwork; nursing autonomy; interprofessional working; quality of care

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Selected References

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