What's new: Unlocking the future: Closing the gap between consumer expectations and community offerings in senior living report.


Revitalize staff with resources focused on compassion and interprofessional collaboration

Staff who are trained and committed to meet the needs, capabilities, expectations, dreams and desires of older adults are at the core of one of the nine principles of active aging identified by the International Council on Active Aging. After nearly two years of pandemic stress, staff members need attention and support. The Abbott Nutrition Health Institute (ANHI) offers new resources to help revitalize staff by strengthening compassion and encouraging interprofessional collaboration.

Teams are already united by a common purpose: serving the older adult. However, when stress is high, it is important for teams to regularly check in with coworkers and themselves. ANHI’s new programs can help teams learn about the signs and symptoms of compassion fatigue, stress and burnout.  The programs also include a review of concrete strategies for resiliency and how to contribute to a culture of compassion.

Teams who serve older adults in all settings have compassionately worked through the unimaginable during the past two years, and burnout is high. It has become clear that working together helps prevent staff burnout, and interprofessional collaboration, can improve staff resiliency and combat compassion fatigue and stress.

The World Health Organization (WHO) calls this collaboration essential to the future of healthcare.  It envisions healthcare evolving to include more communication, with fewer silos and more sharing of old and new tasks among professionals. Students trained using an interprofessional education approach are more likely to become collaborative team players who show respect to each other and work together to improve patient outcomes.

Healthcare centers with workers trained in these interprofessional collaborative methods found it a more efficient way to work because it promotes real-time problem-solving and trust among team members. Proactive communication between staff was found to be especially critical in transitioning care of older adults.

Interprofessional collaboration includes communication between staff members, with patients and their families and with the broader community in a transparent, collaborative and responsible way. Training programs and simulations are shown to be effective tools in building a collaborative culture. Practicing what was learned in training was the single best predictor of improved communication.

How do we foster good working relationships and a collaborative culture? The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation defines culture as a collection of behaviors that together are the “way things get done around here.” Establishing new behaviors so they can be strengthened over time requires two things: (1) practice of the desired behavior; and (2) support and structure that makes it easy to cultivate the desired behavior.

Desired behaviors can include:

  • Actively listening and paying attention to nonverbal cues;
  • Being concise and clear;
  • Being personable and empathetic;
  • Giving and receiving feedback;
  • Checking in that the team has reached a shared understanding (e.g., of the treatment plan);
  • Deciding whether discussion, debate, consultation or other communication tools will help; and
  • Effectively using communication technology (e.g., secure messaging apps, pagers).

Most people will recognize common behaviors that they and their coworkers already practice. Upon reflection, they may also notice how these actions can help bring people together and make them feel supported. By building a framework around these behaviors at every level, we can build a nonjudgmental environment. The administration can support this framework through human resource systems, budgets and encouraging leaders to create complementary teams.

At a policy level, governments and agencies can provide structure to gather evidence for the efficacy of trainings, monitor health outcomes, provide program accreditation and research effective collaboration in diverse communities and settings. They can provide funding for trainings and ensure the sharing of current and accurate information regarding trainings in diverse settings.

Ultimately, success may depend on understanding and addressing communication barriers. Differences in training and backgrounds can lead to differences in communication styles. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation review suggests nurses are often trained to take a holistic perspective of the patient that is steeped in emotional intelligence, while physicians are often trained to value an objective and succinct approach. As a result, communication can be hindered when team members feel misunderstood or feel their opinion is not valued or understood. Teams with professionals from diverse backgrounds can be more successful, and as silos break down, tasks can be shared among professionals to create a more united healthcare system.  

In this new year, as you look for ways to practice and support the nine principles of healthy aging, consider leveraging resources that can revitalize your staff and strengthen a culture of compassion and interprofessional collaboration.

Ashley Bronston, MS, RDN, LDN
Associate Program Manager
Abbott Nutrition Health Institute

You can find additional healthcare professional education programs and resources at: https://anhi.org/.


Note: This information is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified healthcare professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from research. The view expressed here are not necessarily those of the ICAA, we encourage you to make your own health and business decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified professional.


icaa 100 members