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Helping Your Nurses Accept Change

Most nurses are well aware that the healthcare environment is constantly changing, especially in areas of new technology. Value-based care, electronic health records (EHR), changes in reimbursement and scheduling are only a few of the changes in the way quality healthcare is delivered and measured. Employees understand change is necessary, but that doesn’t mean they want to accept it.

Change represents a loss of the status quo and a loss of control over what we’ve come to expect. It can threaten the comfort and the confidence we’ve developed in our role. This underlying discomfort and fear can come across as resistance to change. Nurse leaders often have to implement changes that aren’t understood, or well received. Empowering employees to embrace the positive aspects of implementing changes, and the opportunities change can bring, may help your organization to grow.

Assess Your Organizational Culture

A culture of complacency can jeopardize the growth of your organization. It may feel more comfortable to avoid implementing new technology, but it can lead to challenges with recruitment, retention, and reimbursement. Newer generations of nurses often expect technology to be incorporated into care delivery, and if requirements on data aggregation and reporting aren’t met, it may impact reimbursement.

Nurse leaders can help to steer employees in the right direction if they develop a better understanding of why many may react to change in the way they do. Some employees may be inflexible, and resistive to change if they don’t know what to expect. This resistance could harm morale and negatively impact organizational culture.

Be the Change Agent

Change can often stir different reactions from staff such as negativity, disinterest, and resistance. Expect, and be prepared, to deal with those that resist the change. Some employees may not verbally express their resistance so be alert for negative body language and attitude. Approach these employees and allow them to become involved in the process, and perhaps ask what they would recommend.

High performers may resist change because they already do well with the way things are so the reason for the change might be particularly important to them. Lower performing employees may feel threatened or uncomfortable if they don’t know what the expectations are and how it might impact them. Some employees may not change their attitude despite your best efforts, but maintaining an awareness of these employees may help determine if they are negatively affecting the process or the work environment.

As a nurse leader, you may be well aware of the different change theories, but the key factor to implementing change is gaining not just employee’s acceptance, but also enthusiasm for the change. Leaders may set the tone to help their employees develop readiness for change, but strive to implement the change as a team, with a common goal. Everyone can help lead the change if it’s something they believe can be beneficial. Nurses can often make the greatest impact on improving outcomes since they know what works and doesn’t work well, and are often best at helping determine effective improvements.

Promote Teamwork and Communication

Even nursing leadership may initially struggle with the change and require time to adjust. Therefore, it’s understandable that employees may be challenged to commit if steps aren’t taken to effectively communicate. Transparency in the change process may assist in gaining your employee’s support.

Other steps to assist with positively implementing change include to:

  • Communicate the reasons for the change. Explain what’s going to happen, how employees will be involved, and what’s expected. Use varied methods to ensure information is received such as email, and postings in break rooms or where employees gather. A lack of accurate information may nurture negative assumptions.
  • Provide opportunities for employees to share their perspective, and offer your support. Listen to their questions, fears, and concerns and let them know how they can contribute to acquire some sense of control.
  • Educate employees on how the change might be beneficial. Provide personal stories on how it relates to their role, such as if a new scheduling system might offer the ability to self-schedule.
  • Create a shared vision, and a clear and compelling message of how things may improve once you reach the destination, such as how a scheduling system may assist in identifying, and reducing overtime.
  • Nurture your organizational culture to support change by providing training, and other tools employees may need to be successful.

Once you’ve implemented the change, seek feedback, and provide positive reinforcement for employees that are struggling. Be sure to thank your employees so they know you recognize and appreciate their efforts.

Drive Innovation

The implementation of a change can be challenging, even for nurse leaders. Although most nurse leaders are drivers in innovation and realize that with change comes opportunity, and new ways to provide quality patient care and improve efficiency. Your employee’s acceptance of a change is often determined by how it’s presented. Most people don’t like to feel as if they have no control. Include employees in the decision-making process, to allow them to perceive that this change isn’t something that’s happening to them, but rather something that they have a say. They might end up thinking the change was their idea.

Article Sources

3 Ways Nurse Leaders Influence Change in Healthcare

Change Theories in Nursing

How to Begin the Invisible Work of Change Management

How to Implement Change in Practice

Nurses Emerge as Change Leaders


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