Family Medicine Publications

Moving from space to place: Reimagining the challenges of physical space in primary health care teams in Ontario

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Canadian Family Physician





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Objective To extend our understanding of how primary health care team members characterize the effects of location on team functioning. Design Qualitative study using grounded theory methodology, with in-depth analysis of data concerning the role of physical space in teamwork. Setting Family health teams in Ontario. Participants A total of 110 team members from 20 family health teams in Ontario. Methods Individual semistructured interviews were conducted. Interviews were audiorecorded and transcribed verbatim. Individual and group coding followed grounded theory processes of open, axial, and selective coding. Immersion in interview and field note data facilitated crystallization. Main findings Across sites, regardless of their physical space, team members commented spontaneously about the role of space in team functioning. An overarching theme of a "sense of place" developed from data analysis. A sense of place could be established through co-location (being in the same physical space), the allocation of team members' working spaces, coming together, and having a shared vision. Physical space often operated as a key facilitator or considerable barrier to creating a sense of place; however, some teams with suboptimal physical space functioned as highly integrated teams, creating a sense of place through various means. Conclusion Many interprofessional health care teams cannot physically change less-than-optimal spaces. However, teams can thrive and create a sense of place through various means, some of which relate to actual physical space, and some of which relate to promoting common activities and a shared vision-factors that are effective for team building in general. When there are economic limitations, as well as structural constraints, then it is essential that creating a sense of place be a priority. Future research should consider this lens as a means for expanding the discussion and possible solutions around traditional space issues.

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