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August Nursing Blog

August Nursing Blog

No doubt we’ve all heard about Murphy’s Law …. you know, the one that perennial optimists deem too negative and the one perennial pessimists use to justify their low expectations of life? Murphy’s Law is “a supposed law of nature, expressed in various humorous popular sayings, to the effect that anything that can go wrong will go wrong” (Merriam-Webster, 2023, para 1). Like, no matter which line I choose at XYZ store, or in traffic, I will ultimately end up in the longest line. Though we could all contribute data at different points in our lives if a research study was done regarding the validity of Murphy’s Law, the truth is that for some individuals, Murphy’s Law has become an entitled right to a fatalistic worldview.

Fatalism – that is a term which may not be familiar to some. It is a step beyond Murphy’s Law, or as I say, takes Murphy’s Law to it’s logical end. Fatalism speaks of a fixed destiny, a predestined outcome, regardless of human intervention to prevent that outcome from occurring (Merriam-Webster, 2023). Are you a fatalist? Do you know of anyone who has inclinations in that direction? Taken to an extreme, Murphy’s Law becomes an “out,” a reason to not try to make an effort (toward a goal or not) because that effort won’t make a difference anyway. This reminds of a regular “skit” presented as part of an old TV comedy show, Hee Haw. The skit, set in a backdrop of moonshine slugging hillbillies, included the singing of the lament, “Gloom, despair, and agony on me. Deep, dark depression, excessive misery. If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all. Gloom, despair, and agony on me” (Owens & Clark, 1969). While the weekly skits and singing of the lament would bring rounds of laughter from the TV audience, establishing a world view on this line of thinking would not be so funny, or advisable.

Bringing this closer to where nurses live and breathe, it is acknowledged that crisis can generate change. The issue is, will that change be positive change or negative change? There is a possibility of both resulting from a crisis. Generating positive change out of a crisis is a process with similarities to managing unplanned change (versus managing planned change). The difference is the view of the future – whether efforts made in the crisis have a good chance of bringing about positive change.

Recently a “gem” of thought came to me during a conversation with someone who is struggling to overcome a threatening life change, someone who has successfully overcome several prior life adversities. The thought is, “Change ≠ Growth. Change is the process. Growth is the action made possibly by the change.” Baldwin (2014) points out the necessity of an openness to change as a means to facilitate opportunities for increased profitability in business. Such is the nature of change – it can jolt us out of the status quo, out of our comfortable zone, and even “force our hand,” so to speak to move in a certain direction which ultimately can be profitable. The type of change Baldwin (2014) and Baldwin & Gray (2016) have in mind is planned change, the type developed as part of a business strategic plan. In that regard it does make sense that change ═ growth. This is the type of planned change requiring the leader’s singular focus on the end goal…the growth… to create that change ═ growth possibility.

The type of change I was thinking of as I talked with the above referenced individual is unplanned change. So instead of a planned change leading to expected and planned growth, I am thinking about opportunities presented by unplanned change to be used for our advantage, though in the immediate time period the change may be unwanted, or appear adverse to our well-being. 

The question is … how have you responded to unplanned changed in your life, in your nursing career (or student experience)? Reflecting on this, what was the opportunity presented and how did you respond to that? A major challenge I have dealt with repeatedly in my nursing journey is that of unplanned change, even the crisis type. The unplanned change has been “in the moment,” unplanned events requiring immediate adjustment of plans for the hour, for the day, while on duty, or those involving a longer time period, such as being informed as a Director of Nursing that an entire hospital would have to be closed (actually happened to me).

The question is… how can we make those adjustments and singularly focus on the win-win of the unplanned or “adverse appearing change” so that Change ═ Growth instead of the opposite, Change ≠ Growth? I encourage you to view your situation as changeable - with effort. Crisis ⃗ unplanned change ⃗ planned change ⃗ growth. You are in control through setting an end goal as you go through the crisis. This turns the crisis into a change process which leads to growth. Obtaining additional education could be part of your planned change leading to growth.


Baldwin, B. (2014). Change equals growth.

Baldwin, B., & Gray, G. (2016). World class thinking meets middle-class common sense. Motivational Press LLC.

Merriam-Webster (2023). Fatalism.,fatalist

Merriam-Webster (2023). Murphy’s Law.'s%20Law-,noun,go%20wrong%20will%20go%20wrong

Owens, B., & Clark, R. (1969). Gloom, despair, and agony on me. From the TV show Hee Haw 1969-1992. International Playground Lyrics.

Please note: Portions of this are excerpted from written communication I previously posted in an online course at Ottawa University in 2021. 

Posted: 07/19/2023
Updated: 07/19/2023 by Dr. Ruth L.M. Burkhart, DNP, MA, RN-BC, LPCC
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