Healthcare managers and leaders are often tasked with implementing change. Although sometimes even changes that are intended to positively impact the organization, such as adding staff to assist with the workload, can be met with resistance. Often that’s because many of us, even those in a leadership role, are creatures of habit. The comfort of knowing what is expected of us each day enables us to perform our jobs with confidence, while change can bring feelings of a loss of control.
Unfortunately, change is inevitable and ongoing in healthcare. If you’re working, or managing, within a healthcare organization, it’s beneficial to expect and prepare for change.
Even the most progressive healthcare leader may struggle with presenting a change to their staff. You may be leading the implementation of this change, but it may not be your idea, or you may not initially agree that it’s necessary. Often leaders have to make changes that:
- Are not received well
- Cannot be implemented as intended
- Must overcome obstacles in order to be successful
- Take an extended time to see positive results
- Are difficult to present
- Result in failure
Sometimes, it’s helpful to take the time to process and accept the idea to gain confidence in leading the change. It may require connecting to the idea and understanding how it will affect your role, and those of your staff. Proactively address your concerns first by identifying any of your underlying concerns about making the change. This may help you anticipate and understand how and why your staff may react.
The fear and discomfort that can accompany change may cause some people to feel threatened. This may come across as resistance, or inflexibility. Staff may respond with negativity, or disinterest. Others may not verbalize their concerns, but their body language and attitude may express what their words may not.
You may be considering incorporating new technology, adding or changing your method of staffing, or managing different reimbursement methods that can affect patient care and outcomes. No matter what the change entails, staff’s acceptance may depend on how, and when, the information about a pending change is presented. In order to work to gain acceptance and support from the staff, involve them with the proposed idea early in the process, instead of trying to manage the change after the fact. This may take longer for implementation, but staff acceptance is often essential for achieving success.
A change in the work process or environment can affect staff in different ways depending upon their role in the organization. Instead of telling your staff about what will happen, allow them to be involved in the process so they might come to view the change as beneficial.
A few ways to set a positive tone for the change include to:
- Emphasize the common goal you’re working toward
- Acknowledge that a change is necessary
- Provide reasons to embrace this as an opportunity
- Educate on the reason it’s necessary
- Recognize that staff may react differently
- Discuss how to proactively address potential challenges
- Listen to staff concerns
- Encourage the contribution of ideas and insights
- Provide time to adjust to the change
Empowering employees to be involved in the process can assist in gaining acceptance and understanding of why the change is occurring. This can allow people to feel more invested with assisting with the implementation, and not as if it is something that’s happening to them.
We’ve been conditioned to view change as a threat to our status quo and fear the unknown that can accompany something new. Most healthcare workers are invested in their work and genuinely want to see improvements for their patients and their work environment. Taking the time to present how the change can be beneficial might allow ourselves, and our organizations to grow rather than encounter reflexive resistance.