How to survive a multidisciplinary team meeting

A mental health social worker who once feared MDT meetings offers tips on how to get the best out of them

By Jane Naik

The idea behind a multidisciplinary (MDT) meeting is to have a regular forum for all involved disciplines. In a mental health context, this provides an opportunity for doctors, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists and psychologists to meet and share feedback, and plan, and implement decisions around a patient’s care.

My first experience of an MDT meeting was as a newly qualified social worker in a general hospital. Every Monday the consultant would join the team, accompanied by a nurse who carried her Chanel handbag (yes, really), while her junior doctor made her a cafetière of coffee. This wasn’t shared with any of the team. We didn’t even have access to a kettle.

The ward round resembled a courtiers’ scene from an historical drama. Each week we would wait anxiously for the consultant to demand an update about the patients and, in my case, whether a care package was in place or a care home had been identified. If the answer wasn’t to her liking she became irate, making disparaging comments about my role and threatening to speak to my manager. There were never any thanks expressed for work well done, or congratulations to the team on managing a particularly difficult case. No one dared challenge the consultant. Her word was final.

Living in fear

As an under-confident, young social worker I lived in fear. Every Sunday evening, for three years, my stomach would be in knots about the impending ward round. Speaking out loud in a team of more than 10 other professionals was daunting to say the least.

Luckily, my manager was supportive. An assertiveness training course helped, as did gaining experience and, eventually a job move. Nowadays I attend MDT meetings regularly and even enjoy them. I’ve been part of a number of teams over the years and they have varied considerably in style. Some were a free-for -all with lots of people talking over one another. Others were very organised with allocated slots for feedback and for decision-making. Whatever the format, it can still be a challenge to get your point across. Team politics can quickly surface if the meeting isn’t chaired effectively.

A successful MDT meeting is one in which you feel able to contribute as a valued member of the team.

Tips for success in MDTs

  1. Before attending your first meeting with a new team, try and get an idea about the team dynamics from a colleague. It’s useful to get a ‘heads up’ on any potential difficulties and/or team history.
  2. Identify who is chairing the meeting. There should be someone leading the meeting and keeping to timescales.
  3. Be clear and confident about your role and responsibilities.
  4. Ask questions – if you’re unclear on why something hasn’t been tried, ask why.
  5. Take notes with you to act as a prompt if necessary.
  6. Don’t waffle. Be concise.
  7. Don’t lie. If something isn’t it place or funding hasn’t been approved, or you haven’t completed something you said you would, don’t make it up. It will come back and haunt you. You always get found out.
  8. Be courteous – don’t interrupt and don’t talk over others. If others talk over you, politely ask them to stop.

Be bold and brave

In hospital-based social work, the MDT meeting is an essential aspect of day-to-day work. Social workers’ experience and training in working in challenging situations, and establishing and maintaining relationships, gives you unique and invaluable skills with which to flourish in such meetings (and with any luck, avoid that Sunday evening dread).

Be clear in your role and responsibilities, don’t get pressured into agreeing to decisions if you’re not sure and learn to speak confidently. Be bold. Be brave. You will make a difference.

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3 Responses to How to survive a multidisciplinary team meeting

  1. Andrew Foster May 3, 2017 at 8:40 pm #

    Stunned? I am! To contemplate that one might attend a MDT meeting and ‘lie’……..and not to do
    so is esteemed as ‘advice’………another bullet is fired as we shoot ourselves in the foot.

    • ann mason May 30, 2017 at 11:58 am #

      school of old school!

  2. SWunflower May 5, 2017 at 10:01 am #

    How sad – that workers feel they need to ‘survive’ a multi-disciplinary meeting. As professionals we are all required to challenge poor or oppressive practice, we should all be willing and able to work in partnership.
    Our work requires us to empower service users – how do you do that if you can’t even empower yourself?