The Effect of Complexity of Ambulance Missions on Shared Mental Models in Virtual Teams

*Corresponding author: BjÞrn H. Johnsen*, Guttorm BrattebÞ, Roar Espevik, Sigurd W. Hystad, Øyvind ØsterÄs, Live VatsÞy and Jarle Eid

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original research


Empirical research on shared mental models (SMM) in virtual environments are almost non-existent. Pre-hospital emergencies presents an opportunity to examine team processes in virtual teams because the dispatcher is geographically separated from the ambulance and at the same time plays a significant role in coordinating, organizing, obtaining, evaluating, and conveying relevant information to the deployed ambulance. The present study aimed at mapping team behavior and cognition in critical real-life emergency medical missions based on the concept of SMM.
By investigating the frequencies of coordinating mechanisms and team competencies based on voice recordings from real-life missions, differences in team behavior between low and high-complexity missions were investigated.
Lower frequencies of team competencies and coordinating mechanisms were found in high compared to low-complexity missions. The results showed a different profile in communication between high and low-complexity missions with more frequent use of both coordinating mechanisms and team competencies in low-complexity missions. Furthermore, the profiles revealed that SMM and closed loop communication were the only coordinating mechanism used, and leadership and team orientation were the only competencies exercised.
It was concluded that the lack of visual input of a team member during team interaction could lead to team process loss due to a breakdown of the team into sub-units. Potential improvement of team behavior is discussed within the SMM framework.
Virtual medical first responder teams; Complexity; Shared mental models; Team processes; Coordinating mechanisms.