Harmonious Healthcare Teams: What Healthcare Professionals Can and Cannot Learn from Chamber Musicians

Clare M.C. Whitehead, Cynthia Whitehead, Gabrielle F.D. McLaughlin, Zubin Austin


Background: As healthcare becomes increasingly team based, we need new ways of educating trainees to be collaborative team members. One approach is to look to other professions that have developed highly effective ways of collaborating. Doctors have already turned to musicians for specific lessons; however, as of yet, there has been little empirical study of the ways that musicians interact in ensembles, or analysis of how this might provide insights for healthcare. Our hypothesis is that healthcare teams might learn from understanding collaborative practices of chamber musicians.

Methods and Findings: We undertook an exploratory study of professional musicians playing in non-conducted ensembles. We used semi-structured interviews to explore factors the musicians considered important for effective group function. The interviews were transcribed and coded thematically. We identified three prominent themes that have relevance for healthcare teams.

Conclusions: The highly individual nature of each musical group’s identity suggests that a focus on generic interprofessional education skills development may be insufficient. Furthermore, musicians’ understanding of the fundamental role of non-melodic parts provides the possibility of more nuanced leadership models. Finally, essential differences between musicians’ interactions in rehearsals and performances highlight the importance of varied forms of group interactions.


Interprofessional; Musician; Collaboration; Communication; Teamwork

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.22230/jripe.2014v4n1a169