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Hospital cliques are not inevitable: study

Divides between nurses, doctors and other health professionals in hospitals do not reflect innate human behaviour and can be overcome, new research has found.

The study, by Macquarie University’s Australian Institute of Health Innovation, explored the underlying reasons for the forming of cliques in hospitals.

In healthcare settings, clinicians often cluster in profession-based tribal silos, form hierarchies and exhibit stereotypical behaviours, the study read.

To test whether these habits could be dissolved, the team took 133 clinicians working across Australia’s hospitals out of the workplace and into a lab, then got them to play interactive games.

Study lead professor Jeffrey Braithwaite said: “We found that when we grouped various healthcare professionals into mixed teams, they did not exhibit stereotyped behaviour based on their professional status.”

Braithwaite said observers of the participants’ teamwork couldn’t tell in most cases who was a doctor, nurse or allied healthcare professional.

“We have now shown, for the first time, that professional ‘tribalism’ in healthcare organisations isn’t just an inherently human way of working, or the inevitable consequence of the way clinical groups cluster in relative isolation from each other, but is a response to entrenched cultures in organisations,” he said.

He said this means interventions to improve teamwork can be effective, but added they do require a bit of effort from managers, leaders and the clinicians themselves.

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