Open Access Research article

Real teams and their effect on the quality of care in nursing homes

Anders Kvale Havig12*, Anders Skogstad3, Marijke Veenstra1 and Tor Inge Romøren2

Author Affiliations

1 Norwegian Social Research (NOVA), Oslo, Norway

2 Centre for Care Research, Gjøvik University College, Gjøvik, Norway

3 Faculty of Psychology, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway

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BMC Health Services Research 2013, 13:499  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-499

Published: 1 December 2013



Use of teams has shown to be an important factor for organizational performance. However, research has shown that a team has to meet certain criteria and operate in a certain way to realize the potential benefits of team organizing. There are few studies that have examined how teams operate in the nursing home sector and their effect on quality of care. This study investigates the relationship between teams that meet an academic definition of the team concept and quality of care in nursing homes.


A cross-sectional survey of forty nursing home wards throughout Norway was used to collect the data. Five sources of data were utilized to test our research question: (1) self-report questionnaires to 444 employees, (2) interviews with 40 ward managers, (3) self-report questionnaires to 40 ward managers, (4) telephone interviews with 378 relatives, and (5) 900 hours of field observations. Use of teams in nursing home wards was assessed by field observations and by interviews with ward mangers. Quality of care was assessed by data from surveys and interviews with relatives and staff and through field observations. All data were aggregated to the ward level and two-level analyses were used to assess the relationships.


The multi-level analyses showed that teams – as operationalized in the present study – were significantly positively related to two out of the three quality of care indices when controlled for ward size, days of sick leave and care level. One significant interaction effect was found between teams and days of sick leave, implying that the effect of teams decreased with higher numbers of days of sick leave.


The results suggest that teams are related to higher levels of quality of care in nursing homes. However, the study shows that there is a substantial difference between real, functional teams that meet an academic definition of the concept and quasi teams, the latter having a significantly lower effect on quality of care. Hence, nursing home leaders, directors and ward leaders should be aware of the substantial differences betweens dysfunctional – or quasi – teams and real teams, and encourage the development of real functional teams to take advantage of the potential benefits of team organizing.

Nursing homes; Team; Teams; Teamwork; Quality of care; Long-term care