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Do “Shared Mental Models” Improve Decision-Making and Planning for Health Care Teams?

Health professionals working on a roundtable

Shared mental models

Teamwork is now recognized as an essential means of improving services. In health care, collaborations among nurses, physicians, social workers, and other therapists working with patients and their families are common. They help optimize the patient experience. While diversity among team members improves decision-making and problem-solving, miscommunication and inefficiency can produce negative outcomes for the patient.

So called “shared mental models” can help teams understand their common goals and tasks and clearly define individual roles, reduce errors, and improve user experience. While interprofessional collaborations are encouraged and more commonly practiced in the health care sector, the extent to which teams make use of shared mental models to improve decision-making and service planning remains unclear. It is also unclear how an organization’s structure, much like its strategy, governance and funding, affects the use of shared mental models.

A better awareness of the benefits of shared mental models in teamwork and the decision-making process, and of the organizational features that favour their use, can result in more widespread model implementation to improve teamwork and services offered.

What is this research about?

Professor Agnes Grudniewicz received a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Insight Development Grant to study to what extent interprofessional teams use shared mental models and to what degree the structure of an organization influences their use by interprofessional teams. Her study will compare two types of primary care environments: the community health centre and the family health team. The two differ in their strategic efforts, governance and physician remuneration.

Project Title: Exploring the Relationship between Organizational Structures and Shared Mental Models in Inter­-Professional Teams: A Convergent Mixed Methods Study

Who will benefit from this research?

This work will offer theoretical and methodological insights to researchers on shared mental models in the health care industry, which can also apply to other industries. New knowledge will be gained on the relationship between organizational structures and shared mental models in interprofessional collaboration. The study will also offer practical recommendations for policymakers, managers and health care professionals to improve teamwork, thereby ameliorating the work experience for employees and their clients.


About the Author

Rania Nasrallah a rejoint le bureau de recherche Telfer en 2019. Elle a obtenu son doctorat en médecine à l'Université d'Ottawa et apporte à ce rôle plus de deux décennies d'expérience en recherche. Rania participe à tous les aspects du mandat du Bureau de la recherche et est responsable de fournir un large éventail de services aux membres du corps professoral et aux étudiants de recherche de deuxième et troisième cycle. Elle gère les subventions internes et les bourses d'études, et participe à la stratégie de communication de la recherche. Elle fournit également un soutien aux chercheurs avant l'attribution des subventions afin de maximiser le succès du financement au niveau national et international. En outre, elle travaille en étroite collaboration avec le Vice-doyen à la recherche pour élaborer et mettre en œuvre des stratégies visant à améliorer le financement et la vélocité de la recherche à Telfer, conformément à notre vision pour créer un meilleur Canada et un meilleur monde pour tous.<br/><br/>Rania Nasrallah joined the Telfer Research Office in 2019. She completed her PhD in Medicine at the University of Ottawa and brings over two decades of research experience to this role. Rania is involved in all aspects of the mandate of the Research Office and is responsible for providing a wide range of services to faculty members and research based graduate students. She manages internal grants, student awards, and participates in the research communication strategy. She also provides pre-award support to researchers to optimize funding success nationally and internationally. In addition she works closely with the Vice Dean Research to develop and implement strategies to enhance research funding and intensity at Telfer following our vision to create a better Canada and a better world for all.

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