A Google search of the phrase “change nursing” brings a flurry of “link to” options and includes various aspects of meaning for that phrase. “Change nursing” can refer to what needs to change in the nursing profession, or how to bring about change in nursing from multiple angles, including ways to exert influence, or tips for managers to assist nurses in accepting change. As nurses, we can feel a great deal of pressure to continually accept change, all while doing our best to maintain stability and control of the immediate environment to deliver safe patient care and operational management.
Change is inevitable, inevitably brings stress, and the nursing work environment is already inherently stressful at the baseline (Starc, 2018;Turner, 2013). The question can be asked, and often is, why stress out nurses more with the requirement to adapt to frequent change? Turner lists several nursing profession stress and change factors in the U.S. healthcare system. Starc covers similar factors involved in the constant stress and change in the country of Slovenia. System and policy factors often outside the control of nursing impact the stress and change level which is a current reality for nurses.
Do you ever find yourself saying something like “I love what I do but something needs to change?” The issue is – what exactly needs to change, and where is the control located for that change? Many nurses, maybe most, do not really want to leave nursing as a profession, but quite honestly, the unrelenting stress and demands are not lessening enough post-Covid, to invite us to stay. In my discussions with nurses and nursing students who are practicing nurses, what I hear is that stressed-out organizations barely managing operational success in the midst of significant financial, staffing, and regulatory challenges and even crises, are not adequately addressing the battle fatigue driving nurses out the door in record numbers. In reading articles on the topic of nurse stress, change, and the current “out the door” flood, I can understand and empathize with the exodus – though I am greatly saddened and distressed over it.
McIntyre addresses the “up close and personal” impact of stress and change on the employee. FINALLY – someone gets it and addresses it realistically. Yes, I said it. This is the problem – the individuality of the nurse is often not considered. We are treated as a conglomerate unit, as an interchangeable chess piece on a board to be moved around at will of powers beyond our control, and expected to obey orders without regard for nurse well-being. The problem with that approach is while nurses appear to have super powers of resilience and coping ability, the reality is we are human, and deserve the respect, dignity, and consideration given for human response to stress and change, especially the stress and change present in the current nursing work environment.
The “human factors” or “acceptance factors”, involved in response to change according to McIntyre, are listed below:
- Caring: People need to feel that those who have power care about their concerns and will listen to them. Listening to people’s reactions is just as important as explaining the reasons for a change. Managers often forget this.
- Control: People are more likely to accept change if they have some input into how it will be implemented. Ask for opinions or suggestions about any aspect where input may actually be used. Never ask for input that you don’t plan to consider. That will only make things worse.
- Choice: Where possible, give people options. The more choices people have, the more they feel in control. Some of the energy that previously went into complaining will then be diverted to decision-making.
- Competence: People are more likely to adapt when they feel that they have the skills, knowledge, and abilities to succeed. The faster you can help them move through the learning curve, the faster they will accept the change. Keep in mind that “learning” can include people, places, and cultures as well as skills and tasks (McIntyre, 2017, para 3).
In looking at the four factors of Caring, Control, Choice, and Competence (McIntyre, 2017) through the “nurse lens” of choice to stay in nursing and persevere, versus joining the throng headed out the door or seriously considering that option, I would say that in order to stay, this is exactly what nurses need! Question though is, how do we make this happen? I say, empower ourselves, get more options, broaden our repertoire of opportunity for a change!
One option is additional education. There are online options to do that, and the online RN-BSN is a great one if your nursing education is an Associate Degree. There are many benefits and pros in considering this option for change. The online RN-BSN offers great flexibility in schedule and time management, and can open that door of opportunity for positive change (Morris, 2022). There are excellent, top-shelf quality online RN-BSN programs available. But … no opportunity for change is possible until you, the nurse, make the decision for change by taking that opportunity. You can do it! The choice is clear – if a change is needed, take the opportunity.