TeamSTEPPS Fundamentals Course: Module 6. Evidence-Based: Communication

TeamsTEPPS Fundamentals Course

TeamSTEPPS is a teamwork system developed jointly by the Department of Defense (DoD)and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) to improve institutional collaboration and communication relating to patient safety.


A tremendous amount of evidence exists to support the efficacy of good communication skills for effective teamwork. For example, Cannon-Bowers et al. found that communication is comprised of two critical subskills: exchanging information and consulting with others.2 Information exchange was defined by such behaviors as closed-loop communication, information sharing, procedural talk, and volunteering and requesting information. Consulting with others consisted of effective influence, open exchange of relevant interpretations, and evaluative interchange.2 Likewise, Dickinson and McIntyre found that effective communication required that information be exchanged in a set manner using proper terminology and acknowledgement of the information received.3

Communication is an important component of team process, by serving as a coordinating mechanism, or supporting structure, for teamwork.4 Communication skills interplay directly with leadership, situation monitoring, and mutual support. Team leaders provide guidance through verbal feedback. Leaders also promote interaction among team members by clarifying team roles and defining team norms for conflict resolution. Effective communication skills are needed to clearly convey information, provide awareness of roles and responsibilities, or how performance impacted outcomes.

Good communication facilitates development of mutual trust and shared mental models, enabling teams to quickly adapt to changing situations. Sims, Salas, and Burke note, "communication is especially important as the environment increases in complexity (e.g., emergency situations) as it not only distributes needed information to other team members but also facilitates the continuous updating of the team's shared mental model and their engagement in [other team activities]."4

Communication is a critical skill possessed by team members, for effective teamwork to occur. Team members that possess good communication skills are able to:

  • Communicate accurate and complete information in a clear and concise manner
  • Seek information from all available sources
  • Readily anticipate and share the information needs of other team members
  • Provide status updates
  • Verify information received
Evidence-based summary prepared by American Institutes of Research (AIR) for Department of Defense Patient Safety Program in collaboration with Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Contract 282-98-0029.



1. McIntyre, R. M., E. Salas. "Measuring and Managing for Team Performance: Emerging Principles from Complex Environments." Team Effectiveness and Decision Making in Organizations. Ed. R.A. Guzzo, E. Salas, and Associates: San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, (1995) 9.


2. Cannon-Bowers, J. A., S. I. Tannenbaum, E. Salas, and C. E. Volpe. "Defining Competencies and Establishing Team Training Requirements." Team Effectiveness and Decision-Making in Organizations. Ed. R.A. Guzzo, E. Salas, and Associates: San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, p. 333, (1995).


3. Dickinson, T. L. and R. M. McIntyre. A Conceptual Framework for Teamwork Measurement. In: Team Performance Assessment and Measurement. Ed. M.T. Brannick, E. Salas, and C. Prince. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, (1997) 19.


4. Sims, D. E., E. Salas, and S. C. Burke. Is There a 'Big Five' in Teamwork? Chicago, IL. 19th annual meeting of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Chicago, IL (2004) 4.


5. IHI. SBAR Technique for Communication: A Situational Briefing. 2004.

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TeamSTEPPS Fundamentals Course: Module 6. Evidence-Base: Communication. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.

Page last reviewed November 2008
Internet Citation: TeamSTEPPS Fundamentals Course: Module 6. Evidence-Based: Communication: TeamsTEPPS Fundamentals Course. November 2008. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.