Teamwork. It is a word that is heard in almost every professional development workshop, regardless of the profession. Each one of us is encouraged from the time we are in elementary school to work well with others, whether it’s on an academic group project or on an athletic playing field. But teamwork is especially crucial in the medical profession.

No one health-care provider can go it alone. Nurses, physicians, physician assistants, respiratory therapists, pharmacists and every other support and ancillary department depend on each other to provide each patient with the best care possible.  This week I was reminded that teamwork is never more important than during emergency situations.

I experienced the benefits of teamwork directly in two different situations. The first was during a birth that I was attending. Things got complicated in the moments just before the delivery and the nurses, my backup physician, anesthesia, neonatalogy and the resident were all present and ready to go.  No one tried to take over, but simply worked together as a team like a well-oiled machine to provide a good outcome. Because of the supportive atmosphere, I never felt panicked or that the situation was out of control.

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I witnessed a second example of stellar teamwork later in the week, when my son had uncontrollable seizures that required intubation and critical care, and was transported by ambulance to the ER.   

As a mother, this was a terribly stressful and difficult situation. But the seamlessness in care provided by the ER team left a remarkable impression.  The entire time there was someone by my side – nurses, social workers, residents and physicians – keeping me informed, offering me comfort and letting me stay with my son. 

Again, I never once panicked and the calm that prevailed despite the urgency of the situation will be something that stays with me. There are plenty of opportunities in an emergent situation in which a team can breakdown. In my experience, this usually occurs when health-care providers think that they alone can save the day, and forget about the strength in numbers.

Robyn Carlisle, MSN, CNM, WHNP, works as a full-scope midwife at University Doctors and Kennedy University Hospital in Sewell, N.J.