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Managing Change: An Online MSN Degree Can Help

Deciding to put in the effort and time required to achieve your professional goal of a Master of Science degree in Nursing can be very exciting. If you’re an RN who has earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, you know firsthand the importance of change and expanding your skills and knowledge of the healthcare industry.

Managing change is an essential part of nursing administration and executive nurse leadership; however, change is easier said than done. Take the “Tolerance for Change” assessment found in the Organizational Behavior: [essentials], 2/e textbook by Steven L. McShane and Mary Ann Von Glinow.Understanding your own “me” issues related to change can help you with fostering the change process in others. Several change theories have been developed to assist you with needed change in your workplace or in your own life.

One of my favorite change theories is Lewin’s theory of unfreezing and refreezing of behavior. His model indicates that people need to “unfreeze” learned behavior patterns, change to the new behavior, then refreeze the new behaviors into their daily activities. I once read it takes 21 x of doing something before it becomes a habit, which fits nicely into Lewin’s theory of change. One of the most difficult aspects of change is taking that first step.

Helping others change with that first step is a key skill of nursing leaders. Getting individuals to see the reason(s) for change can promote initial behaviors toward desired change. For example, changing a procedure such as shift change reporting processes requires a broad understanding of the need for change. Typically, if a nursing leader can foster staff agreement regarding the change, the leader can then begin to garner ideas from their staff to implement the change. By including the staff in brainstorming ideas to initiate change, staff will feel more ownership in the change.

The staff will also be some of the first to identify barriers to change and it is important to develop ways to overcome those barriers with that same staff that identified the barriers. Staff should also be a large part of creating the planned out steps to achieve the proposed change. Once again, input from staff is the key to successful change. One way to involve staff in change is with brainstorming ideas.

Some key ground rules for brainstorming are to create a safe environment for idea sharing and to follow up on the ideas generated. For instance, if staff comes up with a seemingly farfetched idea, do not immediately condemn the idea…..after all; it may be some version of the original -crazy idea that helps implement the change. After a brainstorming session be sure to record the activity of the meeting, listing feasible ideas the group had developed. Furthermore, garner staff agreement about the timeline for change so that they can be held accountable for implementation within the specified period. Lastly, communication is vital to successful change.

Communication about change is one of the least attended to areas of the change process by nurse leaders. Whether the lack of communication is a lack of time or a lack of knowledge is up for debate. A good rule of thumb is to “over communicate” about the change, before, during and after the proposed change. Tell staff what change is planned and why. Next inform staff of their ideas, which are being used to assist with the change and how staff is doing with the change process (are they meeting goals set etc.). Finally, evaluate the change itself and the change process, and communicate with staff a job well done, or work which still needs to be done. Always focus on the positive!

John F. Kennedy said: “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

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Dr. Maggie