Building Strong Health Care Teams Through Social Capital
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Social capital is a new concept to physical therapist practice that has the potential to facilitate interprofessional and intraprofessional relationships. Personally, I think it is very exciting to see how ideas from sociology literature can make a difference for physical therapists and health care at large.
By definition social capital is the advantage created by a person’s location in a structure of relationships. It explains how people perform better because they are connected with others.1,2 The principles of social capital are at work in the health care environment when it comes to clinical practice, teamwork, and training, and can strengthen the development of interprofessional education. The 3 primary forms of social capital include broker, closed, and partner networks.
A broker network creates value and leads to new innovations when individuals from 2 different areas share ideas. Through this partnership, ideas are taken from 1 area, combined in new ways, and applied to different areas.
A clinical example would be collaborating with a researcher or scientist from a very different field to develop a new treatment intervention.
A closed network delivers value and focuses on improving efficiency when team members establish trust and work together. In this type of network, tightly interconnected relationships between teams allow them to effectively use resources, reduce turnaround time, and deliver services and products.
A clinical example would be leading your current inpatient therapy team to streamline your scheduling process, ensuring that every patient is meeting the regulatory requirement for delivery of therapy.
A partner network creates value through sponsored access. In this scenario a person identifies and partners with an individual outside of their area, with the goal of moving a product or initiative into a similar area.
A clinical example would be if you want to start a pelvic health program in a rural area. Prior to starting the program, you would partner with a physical therapist (PT) who works in a rural setting to understand best practices and implement a program best positioned to succeed in this environment.
Social capital can be applied throughout the health care setting to facilitate growth of professional networks within and across disciplines, and to build teamwork for the benefit of patient care and outcomes. Whether you are going out on your second clinical rotation, starting your first full-time job, or growing in your career as a PT, I would encourage you to determine what type of network would make a difference for your specific health care environment. From there, you can start to build relationships with others to improve the outcomes for your patients, teams, and organization.
To hear more from Sally on the topic of social capital, watch our interview from APTA NEXT 2019.
Burt R. Brokerage & Closure: An Introduction to Social Capital. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press; 2013.
- Strategic leadership course. University of Chicago, Booth School of Business; Summer 2016; Chicago, IL.
Sally Taylor, PT, DPT, board-certified clinical specialist in neurologic physical therapy, is a therapy manager at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab (formerly Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago) and assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy and Human Movement Sciences at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. You can connect with her on Twitter at @SallyTaylorDPT or via email.