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Meet with success

Effective collaboration is vital in a healthcare setting and that means having regular team meetings for information sharing between nurses, doctors and allied health professionals. But it's also important to make sure the time is used productively and efficiently.

Love them or hate them, meetings are essential to the smooth running of most organisations, not least hospitals. However, the need for regular get-togethers has to be balanced with the pressures of delivering effective patient care. Time is at a premium for everyone from doctors and nurses to occupational therapists, physiotherapists and radiographers. So, it's important that meeting planners and participants ensure every minute counts.

Start with a plan

If you're chairing the meeting, the first step is to set an agenda. Otherwise it could just become a talking shop. Get everyone's input for what needs to be covered, circulate an agenda with a clear, specific set of topics and, most importantly, stick to it.

Who's invited?

Ever been to a meeting and wondered why you were there? Ever wondered why somebody who needed to be there wasn't? Getting the right people together – and only the right people – is Rule No 2. If you think you have nothing to contribute and your time would be better spent elsewhere, let the meeting organiser know right away.

Watch the clock

Each item on the agenda should have a maximum time allocated to it. If one item needs further discussion or investigation, don't let it take up too much time at the expense of other topics. Schedule another meeting if necessary, perhaps with a subset of the participants.

Have your say

If you've got something valid to contribute to the meeting, make sure your voice is heard. It's common for one or two of the more confident participants to dominate, but a good meeting chairperson will ensure that everyone is brought into the conversation. For example, it's not just doctors and nurses who should be involved in a patient's care plan. The expert input of an occupational therapist or physiotherapist may be extremely valuable in many cases.

Write it up

Whether somebody is taking formal minutes or it's down to participants to make their own notes, it's vital that decisions and planned follow-up activity are recorded. At the next meeting it should be possible to review what was agreed in the previous one and what action was taken. Otherwise there's a danger of simply going over old ground every time. If you were given specific responsibilities, make sure you're ready to report back at the next meeting.
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