Medical Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Joe Cress
Northern Kentucky University
Northern Kentucky University Teen Health Science Cafe


When we asked Radiologist and NKU faculty member Joe Cress to present for our Teen Health Science Cafe, he jumped at the chance. Our students had asked for a presentation on Radiology, but Joe suggested we use this as an opportunity to talk about the importance of teamwork in the medical field. When high school students think about the health field, they might just think about a doctor or nurse, not realizing that a whole team of people in a variety of health careers work together to help patients. When you’re in an environment where you work with a team, learning your conflict style and how to communicate with folks is a key skill.

Joe adapted a presentation he uses with his Radiology students to work on interpersonal communication and finding your conflict style. Our Teen Health Science Cafe students got to experience a mini version of a real life college class and learned to develop a skill they can use later on in the health field or really any field where they work on a team!

Hands on Activity

Our first activity was all about communication. Many folks have played the telephone game, but Joe took it up a notch. Instead of having students tell the next person a phrase or story, Joe gave the first student an activity to act out. That student then acted out the activity only to the next student in line – with no words! The next student had to try and figure out what the first student was doing then act it out for the next person in line, and so on. By the end, no one knew what the original activity was supposed to be. Joe talked about how important it is for medical teams to use all their methods of communication because like they saw, without being able to talk, they weren’t able to tell the entire story.

Next, students figured out their conflict type using a survey. Whether they found out they were a turtle, fox, owl, teddy bear, or shark, we discussed the importance of using all the styles in different settings. While we all might have a natural or default style, it’s important to know that sometimes you can collaborate and sometimes you can fight for your opinion. Other times it might be better to defer to someone else’s preferences. Everyone received a sticker of their natural type to remind them of how they usually handle conflict.

Our final activity was to divide into small groups. Each group received a mixed up selection of cards from a regular playing card deck then they had to negotiate with other groups to complete a suit. It was up to each group to decide which suit they wanted to try and collect. The students were also wearing their conflict type stickers so it was interesting to see how the dynamics played out. Many students did not want to deal with someone who had the shark conflict type (a person who tends to look out for #1). In the end, each group was successful and learned a lot about themselves in the process.