Collaboration is the cornerstone of exceptional patient care. It embraces the diversity of perspectives and unique contributions that each member of the team brings. And true collaboration, as you will witness in this issue of Heart & Science, ensures that our patients, families and communities are active and equal partners in advancing health and healing. Their voices ensure that our care plan is congruent with that which holds meaning in their lives.
Collaborating is different and more complex than cooperating. Cooperation or compromise leads only to a temporary solution.
Collaboration ensures that when the concerns of multiple parties are important, we become generative, merging divergent perspectives to gain commitment and a sustainable solution that no single member of the team could have imagined in isolation. This, however, takes courage from every member of the team — it takes the courage to respectfully raise a divergent perspective in service to the best possible plan or solution.
If we embrace diversity and inclusivity, we must embrace conflict as a healthy part of collaboration. “If we want more from life, we will relate and if we relate, we will experience conflict.” Beck-Kritek (1994).
The goal of conflict engagement is to foster positive relationships with our colleagues, to step to the person’s side and to frame our perspective in a way that others can hear. Beck-Kritek would tell us that we must be authentic truth tellers, honoring our integrity, remaining confident in what we know and curious about what we don’t know.
When do collaborative conversations get stuck?
Collaboration gets stuck when we engage in dichotomies such as more or less, right or wrong, us or them. When we believe that there are only two choices: to be honest and attack or to be kind and withhold the truth.
Collaboration gets stuck when we are driven by fear and pride. And it gets stuck when we are driven by assumptions. If we fail to listen, we give others the option of not listening to us. Holding onto these and other assumptions will keep us from seeing a third, healthy and generative option that has yet to emerge from our collective creativity and commitment.
I close with a few questions for us to consider as we engage in collaboration and the healthy conflict that true collaboration may produce:
What am I bringing to the conversation? Do I know my hot buttons and potential unhealthy reactions?
How do I authentically listen so I hear the kernel of truth no matter how the message is delivered?
How do I stay curious in order to remain engaged and open to an emerging solution?
I invite you to collaboratively participate as a member of our nursing and patient care services community because the outcomes are important and because you care.
Jackie Somerville, PhD, RN
Chief Nursing Officer and Senior Vice President of Patient Care Services