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BACKGROUND: Within intensive care settings such as neonatal intensive care units, effective intra- and interprofessional teamwork has been linked to a significant reduction of errors and overall improvement in the quality of care. In Kenya, previous studies suggest that coordination of care among healthcare teams providing newborn care is poor. Initiatives aimed at improving intra- and interprofessional teamwork in healthcare settings largely draw on studies conducted in high-income countries, with those from resource-constrained low and middle countries, particularly in the context of newborn care lacking. In this study, we explored the nature of intra- and interprofessional teamwork among health care providers in newborn units (NBUs) of three hospitals in Kenya, and the professional and contextual dynamics that shaped their interactions. METHODS: This exploratory qualitative study was conducted in three hospitals in Nairobi and Muranga Counties in Kenya. We adopted an ethnographic approach, utilizing both in-depth interviews (17) and non-participant observation of routine care provision in NBUs (250 observation hours). The study participants included: nurses, nursing students, doctors, and trainee doctors. All the data were thematically coded in NVIVO 12. RESULTS: The nature of intra- and interprofessional teamwork among healthcare providers in the study newborn units is primarily shaped by broader contextual factors and varying institutional contexts. As a result, several team types emerged, loosely categorized as the 'core' team which involves providers physically present in the unit most times during the work shift; the emergency team and the temporary ad-hoc teams which involved the 'core' team, support staff students and mothers. The emergence of these team types influenced relationships among providers. Overall, institutionalized routines and rituals shaped team relations and overall functioning. CONCLUSIONS: Poor coordination and the sub-optimal nature of intra-and interprofessional teamwork in NBUs are attributed to broader contextual challenges that include low staff to patient ratios and institutionalized routines and rituals that influenced team norming, relationships, and team leadership. Therefore, mechanisms to improve coordination and collaboration among healthcare teams in these settings need to consider contextual dynamics including institutional cultures while also targeting improvement of team-level processes including leadership development and widening spaces for more interaction and better communication.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC Health Serv Res

Publication Date





Interprofessional, Intra-professional, Newborn care, Team processes, Teamwork