J Oncol Pract 2016 11 31;12(11):1135-1140. Epub 2016 Oct 31.
Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD.
End-of-life decision making in cancer can be a complicated process. Patients and families encounter multiple providers throughout their cancer care. When the efforts of these providers are not well coordinated in teams, opportunities for high-quality, longitudinal goals of care discussions can be missed. This article reviews the case of a 55-year-old man with lung cancer, illustrating the barriers and missed opportunities for end-of-life decision making in his care through the lens of team leadership, a key principle in the science of teams. The challenges demonstrated in this case reflect the importance of the four functions of team leadership: information search and structuring, information use in problem solving, managing personnel resources, and managing material resources. Engaging in shared leadership of these four functions can help care providers improve their interactions with patients and families concerning end-of-life care decision making. This shared leadership can also produce a cohesive care plan that benefits from the expertise of the range of available providers while reflecting patient needs and preferences. Clinicians and researchers should consider the roles of team leadership functions and shared leadership in improving patient care when developing and studying models of cancer care delivery.