Change ought to be a four-letter word with symbo!s and ast*risks next to it because it conjures up worries and fears faster than a quiet evening on a full moon. Supporting your staff through these times require a delicate balance of determination and love. Kindness and strength. Fortitude and vulnerability.


As a manager, the nurses and techs look to you to help them through the unknown times. Be prepared to help spearhead the changes in a positive way, and here are seven steps to help you support your staff during difficult times.


1. Acknowledge your own thoughts

Check yourself first; discover your feelings behind the change. Are you excited or nervous about the changes? Does the thought of doing things a new way interest you or scare you?

Forbes magazine encourages leaders to remember how they felt when they first heard about the upcoming changes. Most leaders tend to get more time to understand and digest the information, whereas employees don’t. So remember what it felt like the first time you heard about it.

2. Show empathy for the upcoming changes

Change is very difficult for some people, and others seem to accept it with ease. Whichever your team member’s response is, show empathy for it. Psychology Today highlights three ways to show empathy during hard times. These are:

  • Channeling your own thoughts and feelings away momentarily to see the change through their eyes
  • Don’t judge or discount the feelings they are experiencing
  • Verbalize your understanding of their feelings by saying:
    • “That really hurts”
    • “I’ve been there”
    • “It sounds like you are in a hard place now. Tell me more about it”

Most importantly, just because you haven’t experienced their situation, doesn’t mean that you cannot empathize with them. Almost everyone has experienced sadness, fear, loneliness, disappointment, or frustration. Show your empathy by connecting with the emotion of the situation.


3. Set up open talking times versus an open-door policy

Instead of just telling your staff about your open-door policy and how they could come to talk to you, try setting up times that you address individuals or the group on a personal level. People may feel awkward about going to your office during busy work hours, but scheduled meetings can help to break the ice.  

You may want to utilize licensed counselors from within the organization to come in and speak. They can help people verbalize their feelings and work through them. Some hospitals offer a small number of free counseling sessions within their employee benefits package, and this is a great time to utilize them.


4. Share as much information as possible to decrease gossip

Times of uneasiness and lack of information will fuel gossip very quickly. What starts to be simple questions can quickly spiral into fear and distrust without enough knowledge. Sharing with your team as much information is crucial to help allay concerns.

You learned about the five questions in grammar school, but these questions need to be answered the same way in adulthood. You may want to verbally share them or have them written down for everyone to read when they have more time.

  1. Who – who is involved, is anyone leaving or being downsized?
  2. What – exactly what is happening? Define it in detailed terms.
  3. When – does this happen next week, next month, or next year?
  4. Where – is the whole unit affected or just a small section?
  5. Why – share why these changes will help the unit in a positive way. encourages positive sharing and times of reflecting on changes that went well in the past. Gossip is rarely about positivity; it usually revolves around complaining and fears, so the more that conversations can revolve around good times, the less gossiping will occur.


5. Clarify priorities of the change and break it down into actionable steps

When everyone understands why something is changing, and the detailed timeline and steps of how it is changing, it starts to become clear.  Common priorities of faster service and better healthcare are outstanding goals, but this only works if everyone can see the final picture.

Defining actionable steps to obtain the end goal gives common ground and makes the change easier to perform.


6. Allow your team to have as much control as possible and lead themselves

The decisions may all seem to be made, but this is rarely true. Day-to-day activities to implement change are often found in the people who will be implementing these changes. So as much as possible, even if it is just minute details and decisions, enlist their support and enable them to lead themselves as Business Collective encourages.

This support can be found through planning meetings and trial runs of the changes. Allow the team to problem solve the issues themselves.


7. Buy the donuts  

Seriously, who hasn’t heard of a group of NNP’s and nurses who didn’t like donuts? A little bit of carbs and chocolate never hurts during times of change. So remember, this and other thoughtful gestures show the team that you care for them. Knowing that they are cared for can help to encourage team members to make changes even when they don’t care for what is happening.


What changes has your hospital made that went smoothly; what steps did they use? We’d love to hear your success stories!