The Art of Mastering Change

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Terry DowdBy Terry Dowd, CRA, FAHRA

February 2013—Change is defined as the introduction of something different or new that is a disruption of normal routine or practice and a means to move forward for improvement. Therefore, by its very nature, change can be confusing and unsettling. In his writing, Price Pritchett describes change as “fog.”1 When change occurs, things around us are different and not clearly defined. It is difficult to see details. There is uncertainty about what direction we should move in. Our natural tendency is to be cautious and move forward very slowly. The danger is that we can become inert.

As leaders in healthcare we are very aware of the constant changes affecting our environments. It is essential for those of us in imaging management to understand and manage these changes for ourselves and our teams. We must assist our teams in navigating these changes to assure our success. We cannot afford to be inert. We know from research that 20% of our team will embrace a proposed change immediately, 30% will be anti-change, and a full 50% will be on the fence.2 Our goal as leaders is to move that 50% to acceptance of change.

We can help our teams by explaining the reasons why it is so important for healthcare to institute changes. Our employees want to do what is right, and they can embrace changes when they understand the reason behind the decisions that are being made. Some of the most important reasons for change that you can share with your team members to help them move to acceptance are:

  • We must ensure the safety of our patients and our coworkers. Errors must be reduced by implementing process such as proper identification of patients every time. Institution of a “time out” process is another example of how we are keeping our patients safe.
  • We must conform to regulatory requirements. Government and radiation regulatory agency regulations are designed to keep the public safe. An excellent example for our teams would be the movement toward reporting fluoro time and radiation dose during imaging procedures.
  • We must provide the best possible patient experience. First of all, it is the right thing to do. Patients deserve the best clinical expertise and to be treated with dignity and respect. Patient experience scores are publicly reported, and our employees want to be proud of the care they give their patients. They want patients and families to recommend our facilities.
  • We must improve our efficiency. We must reduce “unreal” work and operate as efficiently as possible. We must learn to do more with less, without sacrificing quality – reimbursement depends on it.
  • We must keep our patient base and capture market share. The best way to do that is through positive patient experiences and recommendations from friends and family. How we treat people is the key to our success.

Explaining the “why” is only one part of the equation. It is also important for us to help them understand that while we may not be able to control change, we can control our response to it. As Terry Paulson notes, “It is easiest to ride a horse in the direction it is going. Don’t struggle against change; learn to use it to your advantage.”3 By providing tools to help them feel more comfortable with change we can assist our teams and reduce the inherent anxiety that often accompanies change.

Over the next few issues of Link, I’ll explore change more in depth and discuss tactics to help teams adjust and flourish in the present challenging healthcare environment.

References:

1. Pritchett, Price. Hacking Uncertainty: A Counterintuitive Code for Resilience During Disruption and Change. Pritchett, LP: Dallas, TX. pg 3.

2. Pritchett, Price and Pound, Ron. High Velocity Culture Change: A Handbook for Managers. Pritchett, LP: Dallas, TX. pg 22.

3. Paulson, Terry. Change! Love It and Lead It!  Presentation at: http://www.terrypaulson.com/presentations_paulson.html. Accessed 2/4/2013.


Terry Dowd, CRA, FAHRA is the senior clinical manager at Banner Health System-Baywood in Mesa, AZ. She can be reached at terry.dowd@bannerhealth.com.

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