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J Interprof Care. 2007 Feb;21(1):17-30.

Comparison of language used and patterns of communication in interprofessional and multidisciplinary teams.

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Christchurch College of Education, School of Professional Development, Christchurch, New Zealand.


Can the language used and the patterns of communication differentiate a multidisciplinary team from an interprofessional team? This research question arose from an unexpected outcome of a study that investigated clinical reasoning of health professional team members in the elder care wards of two different hospitals. The issue at stake was the apparent disparity in the way in which the two teams communicated. To further explore this, the original transcribed interview data was analysed from a symbolic interactionist perspective in order that the language and communication patterns between the two teams could be identified and compared. Differences appeared to parallel the distinctions between multidisciplinary and interprofessional teams as reported in the literature. Our observations were that an interprofessional team was characterized by its use of inclusive language, continual sharing of information between team members and a collaborative working approach. In the multidisciplinary team, the members worked in parallel, drawing information from one another but did not have a common understanding of issues that could influence intervention. The implications of these communication differences for team members, team leaders and future research are then discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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