Multidisciplinary team: Who are they? Who does what?

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Welcome to the "Understanding the Multidisciplinary Team" learning module!

This learning program begins by explaining the definition of MDT and its influence of different health conditions. As you navigate through the module, you will learn about the different health professions and their roles in the team. In addition, you will learn about when and to whom the referral should be made.

Progress checks throughout the program will help reinforce key concepts. A final assessment at the end of the program will evaluate your ability to meet the learning objectives. Interactive content throughout the program may be covered in the final assessment.

The approximate seat time of this module is 30 minutes.


Learning objectives

Learning objectives

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Upon completion of this learning module, you will be able to

  • describe what is a multidisciplinary team care approach
  • distinguish between multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and unidisciplinary team
  • recognize the importance of the multidisciplinary team care approach and provide examples of its influence to different health conditions
  • list different health professionals involved in the team and explain their roles
  • decide which professions to refer your patient to in different case scenarios


Did you know that...?


In 2012, Booysen conducted a survey to evaluate the understanding of different healthcare students and qualified health professionals on the multidisciplinary team. Findings suggested that there is a significant difference in the understanding of the definition of the MDT and the role played by each members. First year students’ knowledge of each profession was significant lower than final-year students. 

Similarly, in another survey completed by Insalsco (2006), findings suggested that students from different healthcare field had a good knowledge of their own professions but showed differences in their knowledge of the other discipline.

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In which year level are you currently in? Did you study other course or work in any health related industry prior to your physiotherapy course?

How confident are you...?

  • 1 Not confident at all
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5 Extremely confident
From a scale of 1 to 5, how confident are you to explain to someone about the multidisciplinary team care approach?

How confident are you...?

  • I am confident in explaining the roles of all health professionals in details
  • I am confident in describing the roles of some health professionals in details
  • I am confident to list some basic roles of all health professionals
  • I am able to list roles of health professionals which are commonly known
  • I feel confident to explain roles of a physiotherapist but not other health professionals
  • I don't feel confident to explain the roles of any health professionals
How confident are you to explain to someone about the role of different health professionals?

What is a Multidisciplinary Team?

What is a MDT?

A multidisciplinary team, also known as MDT, is made up of multiple disciplines (at least 2 disciplines – medicine, nurse or allied health professions) working in a coordinated and organised manner (Khan, Ng, Amatya, Brand, & Turner‐Stokes, 2010).

According to the NSW Government (2014), multidisciplinary care occurs when professionals from a range of disciplines work together to deliver comprehensive care that addresses as many of the patient’s health and other needs as possible. This can be delivered by a range of professionals functioning as a team under one organisational umbrella or by professionals from a range of organisations, including private practice, brought together as a unique team. As a patient’s condition changes over time, the composition of the team may change to reflect the changing clinical and psychosocial needs of the patient.

Another definition provided by Jessup (2007) is that MDT approaches utilise the skills and experience of individuals from different disciplines, with each discipline approaching the patient from their own perspective. Most often, this approach involves separate individual consultations. It is common for MDTs to meet regularly, in the absence of the patient, to “case conference” findings and discuss future directions for the patient’s care. MDTs provide more knowledge and experience than disciplines operating in isolation.

Progress check: What is a MDT?

A multidisciplinary team care approach is delivered by clinicians from disciplines, that is a minimum of healthcare professionals from professional backgrounds had to be involved in the intervention delivery.

Progress check: T/F

  • The composition of the MDT will always be the same for patients with the same health conditions.

MDT vs. IDT?

The term MDT here should not be confused with other approaches such as interdisciplinary team, transdisciplinary and unidisciplinary. Transdisciplinary team approach suggests that professionals cross the border into another team members’ professionalism. Unidisciplinary only focused on one’s own profession. Interdisciplinary team approaches, as the word itself suggests, integrate separate discipline approaches into a single consultation. That is, the patient-history taking, assessment, diagnosis, intervention and management goals are conducted by the team, together with the patient, at the one time. The patient is intimately involved in any discussions regarding their condition or prognosis and the plans about their care. Individuals from different disciplines, as well as the patient themselves, are encouraged to question each other and explore alternate avenues, stepping out of discipline silos to work toward the best outcome for the patient (Jessup, 2007).

One of the disadvantages of interdisciplinary teams is that traditional hierarchies, or dominant personality types, may interfere with the process. For example, quieter or less experienced team members may feel intimidated or less worthy, and thus not speak up about their opinions around a patient’s care. These individuals would be protected in a multidisciplinary environment, where assessments and interventions are carried out with the patient individually (Jessup, 2007).

Progress check: Select the correct answer

  • it takes shorter time to assess a patient
  • team members who is less experienced will not be intimidated
  • it utilises skills from different health professionals
  • patient is intimately involved in any discussions regarding their condition and the plans about their care
One of the advantages of taking a multidisciplinary team approach over the interdisciplinary team approach is that 

Why is it important to understand each other's role?

Complex tasks are accomplished more easily when professionals within the health care teams have clear goals, are cooperative and mutually supportive of one another, and are aware of each other’s role (Jenkins, Fallowfield, & Poole, 2001). Conflict in the professional workplace may arise if roles are not clarified between professions. Therefore, a good understanding of the roles of each health professional involved in the team help optimise the functioning of the MDT (Mitchell, Tieman, & Shelby-James, 2008). As a result, communication and collaboration between team members will be enhanced. This will also reduce service duplication and medical errors, which improves patient’s satisfaction and health outcomes (World Health Organization, 2010). This in turn increases job satisfaction for team members and further encourage the productivity of the team, creating a virtuous cycle (NSW Government, 2014).

Overall, having a good understanding of the roles of different health professions does not only benefit the team but also the patient and the organization. Hover your mouse on the picture to see the benefits provided in different level of the healthcare system.

What is good about taking a MDT approach?

The use of MDT in hospital limits adverse event, improves outcomes, and adds to patient and employee satisfaction (Epstein, 2014). Different studies suggested that MDT has positive effect in various conditions. For example,

Progress check: T/F

  • Service duplication may arise when members of the team do not communicate and collaborate with each other
  • The MDT care approach can improve pain in people with chronic low back pain
  • There is no evidence to support the MDT care approach is effective in reducing fall in elderly people

Who's in the team?

Who's in the MDT?

Please take 5 minutes to watch this video on YouTube. This short animation will provide some examples of health professionals involved in the multidisciplinary team.

Who are they and what do they do?

Doctor/ Medical practitioner

Medical practitioners assess their patients’ health by taking patient histories and conducting physical examinations. They may also order, perform and analyse laboratory tests, x-rays and other diagnostic investigations to form a clinical diagnosis. This allows the medical practitioner to recommend the appropriate treatment plans for their patients, which may include rehabilitation, surgical intervention, prescribing and administering medications, providing advice and information, admitting a patient to hospital or referring on to another healthcare professional (Health Careers in the Bush, 2010).

Medical practitioners specialise in one of the many specialist disciplines recognised in Australia. These are anaesthesia, dermatology, emergency medicine, general practice, intensive care and paediatric intensive care medicine, internal medicine, medical administration, obstetrics and gynaecology, occupational medicine, ophthalmology, paediatrics and child health, palliative medicine, pathology, psychiatry, public health medicine, radiology, rehabilitation medicine and surgery. There are further sub-specialties within these specialties.


Most registered nurses (RNs) work in clinical practice, with responsibilities ranging from direct patient care to coordination of care delivery. RNs may specialise in a range of clinical areas, including, but not limited to aged care, cardiac care, community health, emergency, general medical, general surgical, intensive care, mental health, paediatrics, oncology and women’s health (Department of Health WA, 2011).

As well as providing clinical care, nurses act as patient advocates, helping them to cope with and understand their own health or illness. Nurses are completely accountable and responsible for their own decisions and actions; they do not simply carry out doctors orders. 

The responsibilities of the RN are also much greater than washing patients, cleaning up bodily fluids and making patients’ beds.


Physiotherapists provide assessment, diagnosis and treatment plans to maximise the function of their clients’ muscles and joints and reduce pain and stiffness. Physiotherapy encompasses a diverse range of clinical specialties in order to meet the needs of different client groups. Physiotherapists undergo additional training in order to specialise in a particular area of physiotherapy, such as cardiopulmonary, neurology, aged care, women’s health or sports physiotherapy (Australian Physiotherapy Association, 2011). 

Physiotherapists use a variety of treatment options, which may include exercise programs, advice and information, massage, joint manipulation and mobilisation, muscle re-education, hot and cold packs, airway clearance techniques and breathing exercises, and assistance with the use of aids (e.g. splints, crutches, wheelchair).

Occupational therapist

Occupational therapists (OTs) offer skills and advice aiming to increase a person's independence in all areas of daily living, including work, self-care, meal preparation, recreation, social interaction, community access and mobility.

Many OTs specialise in particular areas including adult physical disabilities, paediatrics, independent living, mental health, aged care or vocational rehabilitation. Depending on their area of specialisation, services provided by an OT may include:

  • Assessment of capabilities in self-care, home duties, performance at work or school, driving ability and social skills
  • Training in self-care and home management skills to increase independence
  • Assessment and modification of the home environment to improve safety and independence
  • Prescription of, and education in the use of, adapted equipment to assist function
  • Provision of work-site visits for ergonomic assessments
  • Teaching work simplification techniques to maintain independence
  • Advising carers/family on lifting and transferring techniques
  • Hand therapy and splinting - Cognitive and memory assessment and retraining
  • Stress management and relaxation (Occupational Therapy Australia, 2011)

Speech pathologist

Speech pathologists provide individual or group therapy for people with communication disorders, encompassing all aspects of communication. This includes speech, writing, signs, symbols and gestures. Speech pathologists provide advice and strategies to clients to help them communicate effectively, i.e. to understand others and be understood. Their role also includes advocating for appropriate care and services for people with communication disabilities, and providing resources and information to other health professionals, teachers or carers (Speech Pathology Australia, 2011a).

Speech pathologists also assess and treat people with swallowing disorders. This may include providing advice and prescribing texture-modified food and fluids to allow people to eat and drink safely

Social worker

The social work profession in Australia is broad and diverse but consistent to all practice is a commitment to human rights and social justice. Social workers work with individuals, families, groups and communities in the context of their physical, social and cultural environments, their past and current experiences, and their cultural and belief systems.

In all contexts, social workers maintain a dual focus on both assisting with and improving human well being and identifying and addressing any external issues (known as system or structural issues) that may impact on well being or may create inequality, injustice and discrimination.

Social workers may undertake roles in casework, counselling, advocacy, community engagement and development and social action to address issues at both the personal and social level.


A Podiatrist is trained to assess, diagnose and treat foot and lower limb problems. These may include skin and nail problems, foot and ankle injuries, foot complications related to diabetes and other medical conditions and problems with gait or walking. Patient demographics can be diverse ranging from monitoring children's growth and development, managing sports injuries, working with people with chronic disease, disability and the ageing population.


Prosthetists/Orthotists treat a wide variety of clients such as children born with congenital limb deficiency or cerebral palsy, people who have had an amputation following an accident, patients with muscular weakness after a stroke or spinal injury, patients with diabetic foot ulcers or the elderly who have lost a limb as a result of vascular disease.


The role of the dietitian includes assessing people’s health and nutritional status and providing advice and education on diet for good health or for special needs such as medical conditions or sport. This may include educating people on ways to access and prepare appropriate food, and supporting dietary behaviour change through goal setting. Dietitians plan, implement and evaluate nutrition programs to positively influence the eating behaviours of groups or communities.

Dietitians may also advise athletes and sporting teams on eating for peak performance, advise pregnant women (including pre and post pregnancy advice) for optimal maternal and child health outcomes, or communicate nutrition promotion messages to the general population for disease prevention and good health.


The role of a pharmacist involve the followings:

  • prepare or supervise the dispensing of medicines, ointments and tablets
  • advise patients on how their medicines are to be taken or used in the safest and most effective way in the treatment of common ailments
  • advise members of the public and other health professionals about medicines (both prescription and over-the-counter medicines), including appropriate selection, dosage and drug interactions, potential side effects and therapeutic effects
  • select, give advice on and supply non-prescription medicine, sickroom supplies and other products
  • develop legally recognised standards, and advise on government controls and regulations concerning the manufacture and supply of medicines

Aboriginal health worker

Aboriginal health workers provide a wide range of primary healthcare services, including immunisations, screening, referrals, community health education and patient transport. They working closely with both the patient and the health care team, and may act as interpreters to ensure that the healthcare practitioner is clear about the patient’s symptoms, medical and personal history and that the patient has a good understanding of the diagnosis, treatment and health care advice.

They may work in specialty areas including drugs and alcohol services, mental health, diabetes and eye and ear health.

Diabetes educator

A diabetes educator assists people with, or at risk of, diabetes to gain the necessary knowledge, skills, motivation and confidence to optimally self-manage their condition. They provide a combination of client-centred clinical care, education and support to help people with diabetes to adapt to life with diabetes, set goals and learn how to make and implement appropriate treatment and lifestyle decisions to manage their diabetes (Australian Diabetes Educators Association, 2011b).

Exercise physiologist

Exercise Physiologists assess a person’s movement capacity and provide screening, point of care testing and risk stratification to ensure the development of a safe, effective individualised exercise intervention. They can prescribe a course of exercises for general fitness, prevention of chronic disease or injury, rehabilitation (following acute injury or surgery) or management of chronic and complex medical conditions. They also provide education, advice and support on health and physical activity, and deliver lifestyle and behavioural modification programs. 

The scope of practice of exercise physiologists generally does not include providing invasive services, diagnostic tests or procedures, performing joint manipulation, massage or ultrasound therapy, or prescribing medications (Exercise and Sports Science Australia, 2011).


Clinical psychologists have specialist training and skills in assessing, diagnosing and treating major mental illnesses and psychological problems. Clinical psychologists use a range of scientifically proven techniques and therapies (e.g. cognitive behavioural therapy) to help alleviate the client’s presenting problems. They assist the client to develop strategies to control and cope with their problems, and implement changes (with regards to their thoughts, feelings or behaviours) to enhance awareness and well being. They may explore a person’s thinking style and how that is impacting on achieving their goals. Fear or lack of motivation can be significant issues that a psychologist may also work with in a clinical setting.

A common misconception about psychologists is that they only see people who are “crazy” or “mentally disturbed”, when in reality people who are generally mentally healthy may present to a psychologist looking to improve a certain area of their life, such as relationships, social anxiety, health, assertiveness skills or work life balance

Case manager

Case managers working for health care providers typically do the following:

  • Verify coverage & benefits with the health insurers to ensure the provider is appropriately paid;
  • Coordinate the services associated with discharge or return home;
  • Provide patient education;
  • Provide post-care follow-up; and
  • Coordinate services with other health care providers

Allied health assistant

Allied Health Assistants work under the delegation, monitoring and supervision of allied health professionals. They assist in the provision of a range of services including inpatients, ambulatory care, rehabilitation, outpatients, aged care, and community (paediatric and adult). Their work setting may include hospitals, community health centres, schools and clients homes.

Case scenario A

  • General practitioner (GP)
  • Psychologist
  • Podiatrist
  • Speech pathologist
  • Occupational therapist

You are a physiotherapist working in a sport club and have been treating an athlete with chronic low back pain. During your recent treatment session, your patient has shown obvious signs of anxiety and depression. What health professionals you would suggest your patient to meet?

Case scenario B

  • Nurse
  • Psychologist
  • Exercise physiologist
  • Case manager
  • Speech pathologist

You are a physiotherapist working in a public hospital geriatric ward, you have noticed a patient having choked on their drinks a number of times. Who will you inform in this situation?

Case scenario C

  • Podiatrist
  • Nurse
  • Prosthetist
  • Occupational therapist
  • Diabetes educator

You are a physiotherapist working in an aged care facility, you suspected a patient with a background of diabetes has developed an ulcer on the heel of her foot. Which health professionals from the team will you refer your patient to?

Case scenario D

  • Social worker
  • Occupational therapist
  • Aboriginal health worker
  • Psychologist
  • Dietician

You are a physiotherapist working in a community health centre, a new patient with an aboriginal background with a chronic condition mentions to you that he/she is having difficulty with their employment and financial status. Who will you recommend the patient to seek support?

Case scenario E

  • General practitioner (GP)
  • Social worker
  • Exercise physiologist
  • Dietitian
  • Podiatrist

You are a physiotherapist working in a private practice, a patient with obesity would like some advices on weight loss, who might you refer your patient to?

Case scenario F

  • Podiatrist
  • Nurse
  • Occupational therapist
  • Doctor
  • Prosthetist

You are a physiotherapist working in a private hospital and has been working with a patient who have had an amputation, you notice the prosthesis does not fit your patient properly after his/her swelling has improved. Who will you liaise this issue with in your team?

Case scenario G

  • Pharmacist
  • Social worker
  • Occupational therapist
  • Case manager
  • Doctor

You are a physiotherapist working in an acute orthopaedic ward. After assessing your patient’s condition, you decided your patient is not appropriate to be discharged home unless there is appropriate home modification. Who will you discuss this issue with?

Final assessment

Assessment instructions

The following questions are designed to test your knowledge of the content just presented. You will have unlimited chance to answer each question correctly. If you do not answer the question correctly, you can always return to the learning module to revise and to try the assessment again later.

When you are ready to begin, select the Next button.Image result for online exam icon

The MDT care approach

  • The composition of the MDT will change from time to time depending on the patient’s clinical and psychosocial condition
  • The team must be formed by at least 2 members from the same discipline
  • The MDT can only be formed by members from the same organization
  • The MDT approaches utilise the skills of individuals from different disciplines
  • The MDT approach involves separate individual consultations
  • The MDT meet regularly, in the presence of the patient, to discuss future directions for the patient’s care
  • The terms multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary are used interchangeably

Which of the following statements are correct about the MDT approach?

Distinguish the different terms

  • Multidisciplinary team
    involves separate individual consultations
  • Interdisciplinary team
    integrates separate discipline approaches into a single consultation
  • Transdisciplinary team
    professionals cross the border into another team members’ professionalism
  • Unidisciplinary team
    focuses on one profession

What are the benefits of taking the MDT approach?

What are the benefits that the MDT approach can bring to the patients, the team members, the team and the organization? Match the related benefit(s) to the appropriate image.
  • Improved coordination of care
  • Enhanced job satisfaction
  • Improved health outcomes
  • Enhanced communication
  • Better accessibility for patients

Who's in the team?

Can you list 8 health professionals that you may work with as a physiotherapist in a hospital?

What do they do?

Can you briefly explain the roles of a case manager working in a hospital?

What do they do?

  • Assess driving skills
  • Prescribe over toilet aid
  • Provide support in family violence
  • Hand therapy
  • Cognitive and memory assessment
  • Provide advice to clients to communicate effectively
  • Perform joint manipulation
  • Educate carers on lifting and transferring techniques
  • Work-site ergonomic assessments
Select all that applies to the roles of an occupational therapist


You've completed a course on the multidisciplinary team. Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of the MDT care approach and the roles of different health professionals in the team.


Allied Health Professions Australia. (2016). Aboriginal health workers. Retrieved from

Australian Association of Social Workers. (2016). What is social work. Retrieved from

Australian Podiatry Association. (2016). What does a podiatrist do? Retrieved from

Booysen, N., Lake, J., Webb, J., Van Niekerk, E., & Schübl, C. (2012). The knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of healthcare students and professionals regarding the interdisciplinary health worker team at Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Academic Hospital. South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition25(4), 192-196.

Burckhardt, C. S. (2006). Multidisciplinary approaches for management of fibromyalgia. Current pharmaceutical design12(1), 59-66.

Department of Health. (2016). Allied Health Assistants. Retrieved from

Epstein, N. E. (2014). Multidisciplinary in-hospital teams improve patient outcomes: A review. Surgical neurology international5(Suppl 7), S295. Retrieved from

Guzmán, J., Esmail, R., Karjalainen, K., Malmivaara, A., Irvin, E., & Bombardier, C. (2001). Multidisciplinary rehabilitation for chronic low back pain: systematic review. Bmj322(7301), 1511-1516. Retrieved from

Insalaco, D., Ozkurt, E., & Santiago, D. (2006). Attitudes and knowledge of students in the allied health professions toward their future professional team members. Journal of Allied Health35(3), 142-146. Retrieved from

Jenkins, V. A., Fallowfield, L. J., & Poole, K. (2001). Are members of multidisciplinary teams in breast cancer aware of each other's informational roles?. Quality in Health Care10(2), 70-75. Retrieved from

Jenkins, V. A., Fallowfield, L. J., & Poole, K. (2001). Are members of multidisciplinary teams in breast cancer aware of each other's informational roles?. Quality in Health Care10(2), 70-75.

Jessup, R. L. (2007). Interdisciplinary versus multidisciplinary care teams: do we understand the difference?. Australian Health Review31(3), 330. Retrieved from

Johansson, G., Eklund, K., & Gosman-Hedström, G. (2010). Multidisciplinary team, working with elderly persons living in the community: a systematic literature review. Scandinavian journal of occupational therapy17(2), 101-116.

Kamper, S. J., Apeldoorn, A. T., Chiarotto, A., Smeets, R. J., Ostelo, R. W., Guzman, J., & van Tulder, M. W. (2014). Multidisciplinary biopsychosocial rehabilitation for chronic low back pain. The Cochrane Library.

Karjalainen, K. A., Malmivaara, A., van Tulder, M. W., Roine, R., Jauhiainen, M., Hurri, H., & Koes, B. W. (2003). Multidisciplinary biopsychosocial rehabilitation for subacute low‐back pain among working age adults. The Cochrane Library.

Khan, F., Amatya, B., Ng, L., Drummond, K., & Olver, J. (2013). Multidisciplinary rehabilitation after primary brain tumour treatment. The Cochrane Library.

Khan, F., Ng, L., Amatya, B., Brand, C., & Turner‐Stokes, L. (2010). Multidisciplinary care for Guillain‐Barré syndrome. The Cochrane Library.

Khan, F., Ng, L., Gonzalez, S., Hale, T., & Turner-Stokes, L. (2008). Multidisciplinary rehabilitation programmes following joint replacement at the hip and knee in chronic arthropathy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev2.

Khan, F., Turner-Stokes, L., Ng, L., & Kilpatrick, T. (2008). Multidisciplinary rehabilitation for adults with multiple sclerosis. Postgraduate medical journal84(993), 385-385.

Kruis, A. L., Smidt, N., Assendelft, W. J., Gussekloo, J., Boland, M. R., Rutten-van Mölken, M., & Chavannes, N. H. (2013). Integrated disease management interventions for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev10(10).

Mickan, S. M. (2005). Evaluating the effectiveness of health care teams. Australian Health Review29(2), 211-217. Retrieved from

Momsen, A. M., Rasmussen, J. O., Nielsen, C. V., Iversen, M. D., & Lund, H. (2012). Multidisciplinary team care in rehabilitation: an overview of reviews. Journal of rehabilitation medicine44(11), 901-912. Retrieved from

NSW Health. (2014). Multidisciplinary team care. Retrieved from

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Stroke Unit Trialists’ Collaboration. (2007). Organised inpatient (stroke unit) care for stroke. Cochrane Database Syst Rev4(4). Retrieved from

The Australian Orthotic Prosthetic Association. (2016). What is an orthotist/prosthetist? Retrieved from


  1. How effective is the learning module in enhancing your knowledge on MDT and the role of the members?
  2. How helpful is the learning module in teaching you when to refer and to whom the referral should be made?
  3. How happy are you with the format and presentation of the learning module?
  4. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this learning module?
  5. How likely are you to recommend this module to others?