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Upside of Changes: Nurses Make the Best of Change

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Change comes to us all. In the nursing profession, it can be particularly challenging to accept and adapt to change over time. In this article, the author discusses possible strategies.

Upside of Changes: Nurses Make the Best of Change

I read my email and felt that sinking sensation—change is coming and fast. The memo stated that in 7 days we would be changing over to the new system. Despite months of preparation, the looming deadline was anxiety-provoking. Would it go well? Would I be able to adapt? Would our patient care suffer? These and many other questions repeated in my mind as I clicked my laptop shut for the day, hoping that I would be ok with the changes.

Nursing is all about change, isn’t it? Just when we feel we have adjusted to the new technology, system, machine, arrangement, we get the memo from administration, “Be aware that we will be converting to xyz next week.” Adapt accordingly.

Some change is good and leads to improvement. Some change is pretty neutral and some is just plain old bad. The fact remains that we all have to learn to cope with changes and to keep our morale and practice intact no matter how much change comes at us and how fast. How do we stay on an even keel when faced with change?

Stay centered

When change comes, we all hope to be that unflappable nurse that handles everything with grace, quietly, serenely coping with the new skill or information that he/she is required to master. But no. Reality rarely resembles the dream and most of us struggle mightily to keep our composure, to learn the new way and to not allow our patients to experience any adverse effects.

I recently attended a memorial service for a Jewish friend. The rabbi spoke eloquently and wisely about life truths. One thing he said really stayed with me, and compelled me to go back later and listen to the recorded service to capture accurately what he said. Here is the quote from Rabbi Wolfe Alterman from Asheville, North Carolina:

“If you see what is in need of repair and a way to repair it, then you are seeing what God has called you to do. If you only see what is wrong and ugly in the world then it is you yourself that is in need of repair. And all of us are in need of repair in one way or another. There is so much in need of repair that this task feels overwhelming.”

He finished with a quote from the Talmud:

“You are not required to complete the task, neither are you free to ignore it.”

Whether or not you are religious in any way, it is possible to see the thread of truth in both statements. We live in a broken world where people get sick and often die; where tragedies happen but where goodness also abounds. When we are able to stay centered on who we are, what our skills are, what our goals are, we are better able to identify our role in the change process and help in the repairs the change is attempting to make.

The second quote is also freeing because it helps us shake off the guilt when the desired change doesn’t turn out as we had hoped. We have to continue to try; we cannot quit. Not every change is going to go well or produce the desired results. By not ignoring the problem and doing our best to effect change, we may have at least improved some part of the issue by trying.

Stay flexible

We have all heard the refrains, “That is not the way we do things,” or “The administration doesn’t care about nursing” or “I wish we could go back to the good old days of nursing.” When we read these phrases we hope that we are not the ones speaking them but, truth be told, we all struggle from time to time when asked to do something new or to endorse and support change when it doesn’t seem to be for the better. Staying flexible and seeing new possibilities is hard, especially as we gain age and experience. Becoming more set in our ways can go hand in hand with being around for a while and it can also mean that we run the risk of being the “stick in the mud” when it means adapting to a new EMR or to a new staffing system.

In Simon Sinek’s book, Better Together, he encourages, “Don’t complain, contribute.” It is up to each of us to seek out the positive. Complaining can be a bad habit that threatens our well-being and the general feeling on our unit or office. Sometimes we think that venting our concerns helps to release tension and provides us with much needed psychological relief but the opposite may be true. Complaining can be a habit that drags us down and pulls those around us with it. On the other hand, making a contribution, or suggesting a positive change can do a lot for our job satisfaction and help to influence our whole workforce.

I remember working with one of the women from housekeeping that was particularly upbeat. No matter how many rooms were switched out, no matter how much extra she had to do, she seemed to find a way to keep her comments positive and to refrain from complaining. And people noticed. We all loved working her hall!

As we face repeated change, it may help us to look back and see times when change did turn out for the better; we can take encouragement from those times and be those nurses that smile and say, “Let’s see what we can do with this!”


 

Joy is currently an FCN who has worked as a nurse for 35 years. In her time off she enjoys long walks, cooking for crowds and sitting on the swing with her grandchildren.

5 Followers; 92 Articles; 147,007 Visitors; 390 Posts

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