Applying a Model of Teamwork Processes to Emergency Medical Services

William G. Fernandez, Justin K. Benzer, Martin P. Charns, James F. Burgess

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Introduction: Effective teamwork has been shown to optimize patient safety. However, research centered on the critical inputs, processes, and outcomes of team effectiveness in emergency medical services (EMS) has only recently begun to emerge. We conducted a theory-driven qualitative study of teamwork processes—the interdependent actions that convert inputs to outputs—by frontline EMS personnel in order to provide a model for use in EMS education and research. Methods: We purposively sampled participants from an EMS agency in Houston, TX. Full-time employees with a valid emergency medical technician license were eligible. Using semi-structured format, we queried respondents on task/team functions and enablers/obstacles of teamwork in EMS. Phone interviews were recorded and transcribed. Using a thematic analytic approach, we combined codes into candidate themes through an iterative process. Analytic memos during coding and analysis identified potential themes, which were reviewed/refined and then compared against a model of teamwork processes in emergency medicine. Results: We reached saturation once 32 respondents completed interviews. Among participants, 30 (94%) were male; the median experience was 15 years. The data demonstrated general support for the framework. Teamwork processes were clustered into four domains: planning; action; reflection; and interpersonal processes. Additionally, we identified six emergent concepts during open coding: leadership; crew familiarity; team cohesion; interpersonal trust; shared mental models; and procedural knowledge. Conclusion: In this thematic analysis, we outlined a new framework of EMS teamwork processes to describe the procedures that EMS operators employ to convert individual inputs into team performance outputs. The revised framework may be useful in both EMS education and research to empirically evaluate the key planning, action, reflection, and interpersonal processes that are critical to teamwork effectiveness in EMS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)264-271
Number of pages8
JournalWestern Journal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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