Focus Topics

topic 1 | Activity 5: The multidisciplinary team

There are many functions of the multidisciplinary team in palliative care, including:

  • Advocating on behalf of the wishes of patients, families and carers [1, 2]
  • Implementing multiple strategies to address the needs of the individual [3]
  • Adapting the team composition accordingly in response to changing needs throughout the disease trajectory [3]
  • Utilising the process of advance care planning. [1]

The composition of the multidisciplinary team can include many members across several professional disciplines including those from other specialties eg, specialists in pain management, geriatrics and psychiatry. CareSearch has comprehensive web pages on professional groups in palliative care. There are also pages relating to multidisciplinary approaches to care. [4]

Some of the key attributes of an effective and efficient multidisciplinary team include:

  • Collaborative practice
  • Clear communication
  • Clear definition of tasks and responsibilities
  • Clear goals, objectives and strategies
  • Recognition of and respect for the competence and contribution of each team member
  • Competent leadership
  • Clear procedures for evaluating the effectiveness of the team
  • Support for team members as required
  • Recognition of the contribution of team members’ experience .

Interpersonal skills that may contribute to effective team communication are those around:

  • Communication and negotiation
  • Self awareness
  • An ability to self reflect
  • An ability to apply principles of self-care. [5, 6, 7]
  1. What are some of the challenges that can impact on team effectiveness and functioning?
  2. What strategies can be used by multidisciplinary team members to ensure:
    • Clear definition of tasks and responsibilities
    • Recognition of and respect for the contribution of each team member
    • Clear communication?
  3. What additional strategies can be implemented help a team function effectively?
  1. Palliative Care Expert Group. (2010). Principles of palliative care. In:Therapeutic guidelines: palliative care. Version 3. Melbourne, VIC: Therapeutic Guidelines Limited.
  2. Palliative Care Australia. (2005). Standards for Providing Quality Palliative Care for all Australians. Retrieved 30 May 2011, from
  3. Mitchell , G., Tieman, J., Shelby-James, T. 2008. Multidisciplinary care planning and teamwork in primary care. Medical Journal of Australia. 21; 188(8 Suppl):S61-4
  4. CareSearch. (2010). Professional Groups. Retrieved 30 May 2011, from
  5. Baldwin, P. K., Wittenberg-Lyles, E., Oliver, D.P., Demiris, G. (2011). An Evaluation of Interdisciplinary Team Training in Hospice Care. Journal of Hospice & Palliative Nursing, 13 (3), 172-182. DOI: 10.1097/NJH.0b013e31820b5c16Article
  6. Wittenberg-Lyles, E., Oliver, D.P., Demiris, G., Regehr, K. (2010). Interdisciplinary collaboration in hospice team meetings. Journal of Interprofessional Care, 24(3):264-73. Retrieved 30 May 2011, from,
  7. Kuziemsky, C.E., Borycki, E.M., Purkis, M.E., Black, F., Boyle, M., Cloutier-Fisher, D., Fox, L., MacKenzie, P., Syme, A., Tschanz, C., Wainwright, W., Wong, H., and Interprofessional Practices Team. (2009). An interdisciplinary team communication framework and its application to healthcare ‘e-teams’ systems design. BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making, 9(1), 43-57