How nurses can cope with change

By | 2015-12-21T16:12:19-05:00 December 22nd, 2015|1 Comment

One of the few constants in nursing is change. Nurses must be nimble and flexible as they navigate their careers.

Many types of change

During your career, changes can be both sudden and gradual. Some of us have witnessed major changes, like the transition from paper charting to EMRs. We’ve also witnessed seismic changes in the economics of healthcare and how they impact patient care.

In the 1980s, nurses were at the forefront as AIDS permanently altered the healthcare landscape. Some may remember when Diagnostic Related Groupings were introduced, much to our dismay. Recently, we see the repercussions of the Affordable Care Act.

Some changes can be far-reaching, (e.g.: the advent of AIDS), and others can be localized (e.g.: your hospital is downsized or your beloved supervisor is fired).

Change is inevitable, so how do you cope when it happens? Here are three important aspects of coping with change:

Reduce stress

A major change in your work life can generate significant stress. As your body reacts to stress, your health may suffer.

Taking steps to reduce stress is prudent during times of transition, and how you reduce stress is individualized. Your chosen path might be meditation, massage, exercise, nutrition or time off. Your faith may be helpful, and some might turn to psychotherapy or coaching. If you turn to alcohol or drugs, be aware that maladaptive behaviors may not produce the desired results.

Self-care figures largely in stress reduction, and it can be different for each individual. Some may need to sweat and work out, while others may need more naps.

Embrace the change

Embracing change can help you to get out in front of stress. This process involves acceptance, and a willingness to dive in headfirst.

If a new EMR is introduced to your facility and everyone is panicking, volunteer for extra training to become a superuser. Rather than embracing resistance, choose instead to be a champion of change.

Embracing change can be key to overcoming the negative impacts of change.

Practice excellent communication

If a major change is occurring in your workplace, use communication skills to keep information flowing. If you’re a manager, allay others’ concerns by listening to their thoughts and feelings. If you have a sympathetic colleague or supervisor, openly share your anxieties and concerns.

Communication in the face of change is like a pressure valve that allows fears and concerns to be assuaged. This can avoid the manifestation of maladaptive employee behavior such as passive aggression or subtle, unconscious sabotage. Communication is key.

Change is inevitable

If change is inevitable, we must embrace it, champion positive change and acknowledge the feelings that arise during the process.

Communication, willing acceptance and stress reduction are just three of the many aspects of working with the energy of change within your nursing career.


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About the Author:

Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC
Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC, is the Board Certified Nurse Coach behind and the award-winning blog, Digital Doorway. A widely published writer, Keith is the author of “Savvy Networking For Nurses: Getting Connected and Staying Connected in the 21st Century.”

One Comment

  1. Avatar
    Elizabeth Scala December 30, 2015 at 4:49 pm - Reply

    Great article, Keith! I agree with you- change certainly is inevitable, especially in the healthcare environment of today.

    Many times when we feel stressed by a change it is one that we did not know was coming, do not agree with, or feel as though we have no control over it. And alas, these changes come up anyway! To deal with them we need a lot of the great information shared above. Thank you for that.

    I would add that we also need a process that helps us become aware of our thoughts and feelings around the change. Once we have that awareness, we can let go of the emotions or beliefs that are not doing us any good. In one of my blogs ( I talk about a three step process that can help nurses cope with stress and release the tension that is causing them pain.

    Thanks so much for the article, great work! Sharing.

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