Forming Meaningful and Engaging Teams: Keys to Success

April 16, 2015   |  Tags: Blog   |  Tags: Team Based Care , Communication
Regina Dehen, ND, MAOM, LAc

In late 2014, NCNM Clinic, the primary teaching clinic at the National College of Natural Medicine (NCNM), made the shift to a team-based care delivery system, a new concept at the naturopathic and Chinese medicine college.

Seven months into the project, we are happy to report we have 30 doctors assigned to five care teams. Our doctors are so engaged that they are introducing the concept to their patients. Here are a few best practices we’ve followed to develop our teams:


Use A Variety of Communication Styles

To form our five teams, we involved our doctors from the very beginning. We initially drafted teams on the availability of the doctors, the practice preferences, schedules and panel size. After we drafted the initial five teams, we solicited feedback in a variety of ways:

  • We posted the teams and asked doctors to come and share their input by moving post-its around.
  • We used complimentary electronic services like Mail Chimp and Doodle to ask the doctors about their preferred panel size, schedules and practice preferences. (Sixty percent of the doctors responded electronically using these tools, and those that did not we tracked down).

After three weeks, we had 100 percent provider feedback on our NCNM care teams.


Provide Protected Time for Team Huddles

Because this concept is new, we scheduled time for our teams to conduct their first huddle during the monthly clinical faculty meeting.

To start off these team meetings, we suggested each team participate in the simple icebreaker “One Lie and a Truth.” Each doctor came up with three facts about themselves; two true and one false. The other team members were encouraged to guess which fact was not true. It made our first official team huddles fun—inspiring laughter and interest. 

We also provided each member of every team their team-colored folder with handouts and worksheets. Having these simple tactile tools help solidify the teams and make the concept real. Developing personalized packets of information is a great way to increase engagement.


Acknowledge Experimentation

Change makes people go above and beyond the call of duty. Recognize that by acknowledging and congratulating all efforts, failed or otherwise. Feedback is based on specific, firsthand observation and should deal with specific situations, observations and real examples, not generalizations.

At the beginning of each NCNM faculty meeting with our naturopathic physicians, we always thank all everyone for their willingness to begin the transition to team-based care. Thank the doctors for their feedback. Thank them for attending team huddles, even if they are mandatory. Appreciate their skepticm. Acknowledging effort with kudos is the secret to forming engaged and meaningful care teams.


Feel free to contact us at NCNM if you are interested in any of our care team materials - we are happy to share.  


As the Chief Medical Officer at NCNM, Regina Dehen, ND, MAOM, LAc creates and deploys the clinical curriculum and is responsible for developing clinical policy and procedural manuals with input from clinical faculty. Chairing clinical supervisor meetings, establishing professionalism guidelines and clinical quality measures, as well as assessing clinical outcomes and adherence to guidelines also falls under her purview. She develops and evaluates competencies for evidence-based clinical judgment, provides oversight of all didactic classes with clinical impact, and evaluates and manages clinical supervisors and interns and has facilitated and performed clinical research.

Currently, Dr. Dehen oversees and coordinates between investigators and clinicians, and between the College Research Committee, the Research Scholars program, and the Institutional Review Board. Having benefited from participating in OCOM’s Acupuncture Practitioner’s Research Education Enhancement (APREE) Research Scholars Program and the Oregon Health & Science University’s Human Investigations Program, she has incorporated research literacy and an evidence-based approach into all of her teaching and administrative duties. Additionally, she continually works with clinic supervisors and interns to ensure that evidence-based competencies and methods are included and evaluated in clinical classes and rotations.