Ten Steps to Successful Interdisciplinary Team Work

Interdisciplinary Studies opens doors for students to pursue individualized and innovative work that continuously pushes the limits of collaborative work. Whether you are completing an interdisciplinary degree or a part of interdisciplinary career, working in a team with members across multiple disciplines is necessary. Interdisciplinary work merges methodology and epistemology of a wide variety of content, which can become tricky. Human Resources for Health performed a systematic review of literature on interdisciplinary team work to identify ten characteristics that successfully support interdisciplinary team work. Ten principles of good interdisciplinary team work focused on creating a basis for good interdisciplinary team work in healthcare, human resource management, organizational behavior, and education. The authors of the review article state a proposed definition for team work in health care that is as follows:

“A dynamic process involving two or more health professionals with complementary backgrounds and skills, sharing common health goals and exercising concerted physical and mental effort in assessing, planning, or evaluating patient care. This is accomplished through interdependent collaboration, open communication and shared decision-making. This in turn generates value-added patient, organizational and staff outcomes.”

Photo Credit: Steve Davis (CC BY 2.0)

Working in health care is nothing short of challenging. The definition just stated is challenging to comprehend in one read. The outcome of the article Ten principles of good interdisciplinary team work is phenomenal for creating starting guidelines for working in the most efficient and respectful way. The shortened version of the principles identified are:

  1. positive leadership and management attributes
  2. communication strategies and structures
  3. personal rewards, training and development
  4. appropriate resources and procedures
  5. appropriate skill mix
  6. supportive team climate
  7. individual characteristics that support interdisciplinary team work
  8. clarity of vision
  9. quality and outcomes of care
  10. respecting and understanding roles

**(extended principles listed at end of blog post)


What I absolutely love about the results of the systematic review are that the ten principles apply to absolutely any interdisciplinary work. I would argue that the principles should be used as guidelines for all team work; interdisciplinary or not. But for the sake of some of the most innovative and influential work in the world, the Human Resources for Health team created a list of interdisciplinary team work principles I will save forever. As I have just started my journey in the world of interdisciplinary team work, I feel this systematic review provides me with a great resources for a strong approach towards successful team work. Having a reference list to remind me of how to approach challenging interdisciplinary work, is extremely valuable. Being able to work towards completion of the ten principles is also a remarkable list of skills for a resume!



  1. Identifies a leader who establishes a clear direction and vision for the team, while listening and providing support and supervision to the team members.
  2. Incorporates a set of values that clearly provide direction for the team’s service provision; these values should be visible and consistently portrayed.
  3. Demonstrates a team culture and interdisciplinary atmosphere of trust where contributions are valued and consensus is fostered.
  4. Ensures appropriate processes and infrastructures are in place to uphold the vision of the service (for example, referral criteria, communications infrastructure).
  5. Provides quality patient-focused services with documented outcomes; utilizes feedback to improve the quality of care.
  6. Utilizes communication strategies that promote intra-team communication, collaborative decision making and effective team processes.
  7. Provides sufficient team staffing to integrate an appropriate mix of skills, competencies, and personalities to meet the needs of patients and enhance smooth functioning.
  8. Facilitates recruitment of staff who demonstrate interdisciplinary competencies including team functioning, collaborative leadership, communication, and sufficient professional knowledge and experience.
  9. Promotes role interdependence while respecting individual roles and autonomy.
  10. Facilitates personal development through appropriate training, rewards, recognition, and opportunities for career development.

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One Comment

  1. This is a great find! I am thinking that this might be a nice post to include in our textbook since, as you point out, it could apply to any team-based activity, and could be useful for anyone trying to develop expertise in interdisciplinary collaboration. Thank you for finding this!

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