Building Great Nursing Teams (Podcast)

Communication and self-reflection key to world-class patient care

Shannon Kunberger, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, learned the value of teamwork early in her career as a clinical nurse in the emergency department and later as a flight nurse. She now serves as chief nursing officer at Cleveland Clinic Euclid Hospital, where she stresses the importance of highly functioning nursing teams.


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“Teamwork at its basic core, just to simplify it, is a bunch of people doing a bunch of processes and actions toward one goal,” says Kunberger. “And what’s our goal in healthcare? It’s taking care of patients.”

In the latest episode of Cleveland Clinic’s Nurse Essentials podcast, Kunberger shares her thoughts on fostering teamwork among nurses to ensure top-notch patient care. She discusses:

  • The role of nurse leaders in creating a culture that supports healthy teams
  • The importance of self-reflection and communication in building strong teams
  • How teamwork cultivates caregiver engagement
  • The benefits of healthy teams for new nurses and seasoned veterans
  • How to clarify roles and responsibilities among team members

Click the podcast player above to listen to the episode now, or read on for a short, edited excerpt. Check out more Nurse Essentials episodes at or wherever you get your podcasts.


Podcast excerpt

Kunberger: When I try to lead a team, whether it’s an existing team or a new team, I really try to humble myself. And when caregivers or team members see that a leader is willing to be humble and willing to say, ‘I don’t know everything. I might make a mistake. I need you to speak up. I need you to keep me honest’ – and opening that culture for people to just talk freely and not be fearful that they will say the wrong thing or they’re going to get in trouble – when you create that kind of culture, then communication becomes even stronger. And that’s how the team starts working together.

Allowing them freedom and grace. Take the personal, emotional stuff out of it if it is about quality or safety – anything with a patient experience. When we sometimes are working in a team environment, and we feel really passionate about something, is it really your passion or your emotions that are taking over your decision-making? Because you feel convictions, right?

Are you accurate in your conviction? And it really does take time to learn about yourself. You have to be comfortable in your own skin, which we know some newer graduate nurses – or even people who’ve been a nurse a long time and they change disciplines – we have to be humble to say we don’t know everything and lean into people who do.


And so, when we’re willing to put ourselves out there as a leader, I think people can really see that genuinely – that it’s OK to make a mistake if you’re doing it for the right thing. It’s OK to speak up.

Once you get that foundation of speaking up and communications, teams are going to function better because the root of teamwork is communication.

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