Original Article| Volume 65, ISSUE 4, P263-272, April 2023

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“It's Not Us Versus Them”: Building Cross-Disciplinary Relationships in the Perioperative Period



      Palliative care (PC) interventions improve quality outcomes for surgical patients, yet they are underutilized in the perioperative period. Developing cross-disciplinary provider relationships increases PC consults. However, the attributes of collaborative relationships and how they evolve are unclear.


      To identify perceptions of PC providers and surgeons on how collaborative cross-disciplinary relationships are built and maintained in the perioperative period.


      This cross-sectional multiphase qualitative study included 23 semistructured interviews with 10 PC teams (20 providers) and 13 surgeons at geographically distributed Veteran Health Administration (VHA) sites. An analytic approach relied on team-based thematic analysis with a dual review (Krippendorf α above 0.8).


      Respondents defined successful collaborative work relationships between PC and surgeons as having the following features: 1) mutual trust; 2) mutual respect; 3) perceived usefulness; 4) shared clinical objectives; 5) effective communication; and 6) organizational enablers. In addition, the analysis elucidated a framework of six strategies for developing collaborative relationships between PC and surgical teams in the perioperative period: 1) being present, available, and responsive; 2) understanding roles; 3) establishing communication; 4) recognizing an intermediary and connecting role of supporting team members; 5) working as a team; and 6) building on previous experiences.


      The study informs future interventions to improve the quality of care for seriously ill patients by better-involving PC in the perioperative period. Future work will extend this approach to incorporate the perspectives of patients on their providers’ collaboration and how it impacts patient-related outcomes at the intersection of PC and surgery.

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