Additionally, huddles can address differences in trainee clinical expertise. For example, new physician interns with less experience in the clinic receive more coaching on system resources and patient histories than they might otherwise. Nurse practitioner residents often participate in more than 1 huddle team and transition to a coaching role.
Sustained Relationships, Role Clarity, and Collaboration. The huddles are structured to facilitate SRs among trainees from different professions and among the PACT teamlet in detail as a team. The huddle increases team efficiency by educating trainees and staff about team member roles. For example, trainees learn how the LVNs and MSAs prepare for patient visits. Moreover, an opportunity exists to learn how provider and clinic staff expertise may overlap. Registered nurse care managers, who have their own hypertension clinics, can help manage a patient’s medication titration. Similarly, pharmacy trainees can suggest a referral for a complicated patient with diabetes to pharmacy clinic, where clinical pharmacists can adjust medications and provide patient education for hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and hyperglycemia. In this way, role clarity is improved and trainees learn how team members work within their scope of practice and are better able to “share the care.”
There is evidence that huddles have resulted in expanded participant interprofessional collaboration. The CoE administers the TDM twice a year and the huddle teams rate themselves on several dimensions—cohesiveness, communications, role clarity, and goals.6,7 The 2011/2012 findings showed that nearly all teams showed improvement, with the mean scores for all teams combined increasing from 59.4 in the fall to 64.6 in the spring (max score is 100).5 These scores increased again from 62.2 to 70.3 in 2012/2013, from 66.6 to 70.2 in 2013/2014, and from 64.6 to 69.9 in 2014/2015.
Expanding Clinical Knowledge. At the individual level, the huddle is an opportunity for a trainees to expand their clinical expertise in real time. The huddle provides exposure to a variety of patients and corresponding patient care needs. Trainees are encouraged to complete patient prerounds before the huddle in order to focus the huddle discussion on patients with chronic conditions, complex needs, recent hospitalizations, and upcoming appointments. The CoEPCE trainees tap into the expertise and experience of their team members and coach.
The clinic staff can get information from trainees about their plan of care while trainees get a more complete picture of a patient’s situation—for example, medical or social history or communication preferences. Additionally, trainees learn team skills, such as communication techniques and warm handoffs, which can be used in other clinical settings outside primary care and beyond the VA. As trainees advance, the huddle helps them learn to delegate appropriately, practice conflict negotiation, and develop leadership skills.
Participants’ Satisfaction With Interventions. There is qualitative evidence that clinic RNs and LVNs like huddles and appreciate having the opportunity to communicate in person with providers as well as to teach trainees how to work interprofessionally. Faculty members who are huddle coaches report that they develop a richer understanding of the skill set of trainees, information that can inform CoE curriculum design. Trainees appreciate the opportunity to develop relationships with team members. In end-of-year interviews, they describe their teams as their families, making them feel more connected to the clinic. They also enjoyed starting their day with familiar faces.
Primary Care Delivery System. The huddle is an important component of a system-wide transformation to provide team-based, patient-centered care to veterans. The efforts to strengthen and standardize the huddle have the potential to hasten this transformation while improving relationships and quality of care. Additionally, the CoE approach to integrating trainees into huddles has broader applicability and is being considered for adoption by other VA centers of excellence in primary care education.Primary Care Services. The huddle may contribute to efficiencies in a busy clinic setting. For example, the RN care manager can have upward of 1,200 patients on his/her panel and, between staff and trainees, as many as 12 health care providers with whom to communicate. The huddle strengthens the communications with providers and is an opportunity to touch base on the patients, coordinate care, and keep track of high-risk patients who might fall off the radar otherwise. The huddle is flexible and can occur with various clinic staff and providers. A 2-person huddle can occur between an RN and the primary provider. The QI projects that have been developed as a result of a huddle have improved clinic primary care services, such as completing opiate consents and urine toxicology or improving continuity through increased telephone clinic usage.Patient Outcomes. The huddle results in a more robust plan of care than might be developed by an individual provider who might not have time to consider options outside the individual’s scope of practice or expertise. While there are few clinical outcomes that are directly influenced by huddles alone, huddles may help indirectly improve patient outcomes on many fronts, including: