An exploratory study of role behavior within interdisciplinary teams in a residential facility for the mentally retarded

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Twelve interdisciplinary (ID) teams in a residential facility for the mentally retarded were observed while conducting annual reviews of resident program plans. Observers used predetermined recording rules to code the responses of the ID team members into one of the following four content areas: (1) assessment; (2) program planning; (3) program implementation; and (4) placement alternatives. Additionally, the observers coded whether the statements made were: (1) questions; (2) informational type statements; or (3) recommendations or decision-making type statements.

Following the observations, the observers also rated the teams on the following nine variables associated with group behavior: (1) group effectiveness; (2) leader approachability; (3) mutual influence; (4) personal involvement and participation; (5) intragroup trust versus intragroup competition; (6) worth of the meeting; (7) submission to versus rebellion against the leader; (8) leader control; and (9) role and idea conformity.

The observational data revealed that the ID team~ spent most of their time discussing assessment related issues and the least amount of time discussing placement alternatives for the residents. The members seldom crossed territorial boundaries to give feedback to other members in areas outside of their discipline. Seldom did the members question information or propose any changes to information presented by others. In general, the purpose of the meetings seemed to be to review an already developed plan.

Professional staff, including nurses, social workers, teachers, and psychologists, participated more frequently in the meetings than did para-professional staff. The professionals usually contributed concrete data including written assessment reports and implementation data. The para-professional staff's comments were usually informational in nature.

Findings from this study raised concerns regarding the implementation of the interdisciplinary service delivery model in residential centers. While it is assumed that all members of the teams do participate in the meetings, the findings from this study do not support this assumption. Future research is needed to.more broadly examine participation in team meetings in PRFs across the nation. Additionally, alternative methods must be developed for increasing staff participation and assessing the quality of decisions reached by ID teams.