Team Stress and Its Impact on Interprofessional Teams: A Narrative Review

Derek Sorensen*, Sayra Cristancho, Michael Soh, Lara Varpio

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Phenomenon: Interprofessional healthcare team (IHT) collaboration can produce powerful clinical benefits for patients; however, these benefits are difficult to harness when IHTs work in stressful contexts. Research about stress in healthcare typically examines stress as an individual psychological phenomenon, but stress is not only a person-centered experience. Team stress also affects the team’s performance. Unfortunately, research into team stress is limited and scattered across many disciplines. We cannot prepare future healthcare professionals to work as part of IHTs in high-stress environments (e.g., emergency medicine, disaster response) unless we review how this dispersed literature is relevant to medical education. Approach: The authors conducted a narrative review of the literature on team stress experienced by interprofessional teams. The team searched five databases between 1 Jan 1990 and 16 August 2021 using the search terms: teams AND stress AND performance. Guided by four research questions, the authors reviewed and abstracted data from the 22 relevant manuscripts. Findings: Challenging problems, time pressure, life threats, environmental distractors, and communication issues are the stressors that the literature reports that teams faced. Teams reacted to team stress with engagement/cohesion and communication/coordination. Stressors impact team stress by either hindering or improving team performance. Critical thinking/decision-making, team behaviors, and time for task completion were the areas of performance affected by team stress. High-quality communication, non-technical skills training, and shared mental models were identified as performance safeguards for teams experiencing team stress. Insights: The review findings adjust current models explaining drivers of efficient and effective teams within the context of interprofessional teams. By understanding how team stress impacts teams, we can better prepare healthcare professionals to work in IHTs to meet the demands placed on them by the ever-increasing rate of high-stress medical situations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-173
Number of pages11
JournalTeaching and Learning in Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • Interprofessional
  • performance
  • stress
  • team
  • training


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