A Matter of Trust

Premier Pulse     June 2023

Colon_336x336By Roberto Colon, MD, system chief medical officer, Premier Health

Trust is a fundamental element in health care teams, enabling successful collaboration to accomplish the care plan. Typically, this trust is established over time through the development of relationships, working closely together for extended hours. During this shared experience, team members become familiar with each other's professional skills and learn more about each other as individuals. They discover commonalities and shared interests beyond their initial work-related connection. Yet, given the constantly evolving health care landscape, characterized by organizational movement, high turnover rates, and an influx of new team members, how can health care teams build trust in one another without the benefit of time?

Passengers do not question pilots about the specific route or flight plan before take-off, nor do they demand to see their credentials before entrusting their lives on a flight. Even when other pilots are present as passengers, there is typically no questioning of those in the cockpit. We seem to inherently trust these professionals without knowing them personally. However, when it comes to trusting one another in the context of patient care, we often encounter difficulties. Reflecting on our own experiences, there may have been occasions where we questioned a consultant, doubted a request for a consult, or cast doubt on information provided by a non-physician team member. In such situations, examining our motives behind asking questions is crucial. Did we approach these inquiries with genuine curiosity or with an underlying motive of doubt?

As we embark on this new era of medicine, it is imperative that we cultivate trust within our teams by fostering a collaborative spirit. This entails recognizing that our colleagues, who join us in caring for patients, possess the necessary skills and share a common objective: providing quality patient care. It is important to note that trust doesn't mean mindlessly disregarding safety precautions but rather approaching them constructively and with a mindset geared toward growth rather than doubt. When formulating inquiries for our team members, asking, "How can I assist you in your role?" is a more constructive motivator than questioning their competence with, "Do you know what you are doing?"

While trust needs to be earned, we can enhance its effectiveness by adopting a default position of trust with our team members. By defaulting to trust, we believe in our collective commitment to a common purpose: our patients. We trust that each individual is dedicated to performing their best. We acknowledge that we are all interconnected in this endeavor, fostering a sense of unity and trust that we are in this together. 

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