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Change Resistance and Nurse Leaders’ Strategies


The modern healthcare sector is influenced by various factors and processes that challenge organizations to adapt. Thus, as part of their work, nurse leaders are required to implement and facilitate organizational changes. Resistance to change is among the key barriers that affect change implementation and success (Salam & Alghamdi, 2016). Overcoming resistance to change requires detailed knowledge of the concept and best practices. The present paper will seek to explain the significance of resistance to change for nurse leaders, identify best practices in overcoming resistance to change, and show how they apply to the work of nurse leaders.

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Significance for Nurse Leaders

The healthcare environment is subject to continuous transformation due to the complexity of political, social, scientific, and technological factors affecting it. Salam & Alghamdi (2016) state that policies and legislation are among the most significant drivers of change in healthcare organizations. Legal and political changes might impact the way care is delivered and reimbursed, as well as alter standards of care quality and accreditation. Additionally, technological and scientific developments in the healthcare sector affect procedures for diagnosis and treatment and require nurses to remain informed about and trained in using the newest technologies and medicines.

Organizational change is also essential for improving and maintaining the profitability of medical institutions. For instance, implementing new practices of scheduling or internal communication can decrease employees’ workload and improve productivity, thus increasing profits. Failure to achieve change and adapt to external forces successfully might result in the loss of accreditation, poor patient outcomes, legal trouble, and customer dissatisfaction. Hence, it is crucial for nurse leaders to ensure that change implementation is smooth and successful in achieving the desired outcome.

Resistance to change is a term used to describe the negative beliefs and behaviors of staff in relation to change implementation. Resistance to change is of critical significance for nurse leaders because it can impair the efforts for implementing change and affect process outcomes. Employees who do not participate in the change process or try to compromise the leaders’ actions during organizational change threaten the success of the process. Therefore, in the contemporary context, resistance to change threatens healthcare organizations by not allowing them to adapt to changes in the healthcare environment and improve internal processes to increase productivity.

Best Practices

In order to overcome resistance to change in any organizational context, it is crucial to understand the reasons behind the opposition and address them appropriately. According to Bateh, Castaneda, and Farah (2013), during organizational change, “many employees fear that they will not be fortunate enough to retain their jobs, whereas others are simply unwilling or unprepared to learn and develop new skills” (p. 113). Therefore, resistance to change occurs due to both personal and organizational factors. First of all, employees might feel threatened by the change if its necessity, benefits, and target effects are not communicated correctly (Yılmaz & Kılıçoğlu, 2013). Employees might also lack the necessary training or skills required to participate in the change process.

Secondly, employees might disagree with the proposed change on an ideological level. If a change influences their scope of responsibility of authority or increases their workload, it is also likely to trigger resistance. Lastly, resistance to change might occur due to employees’ personal attitudes towards change in general. Yılmaz and Kılıçoğlu (2013) explain that some employees have blind resistance to change, which means that they are afraid of change and unwilling to participate in it regardless of the nature of change and its potential effects. Personal attitudes to the change process impair workers’ motivation to contribute to change and require action from the management.

Based on the information above, there are several best practices that can help to overcome resistance to change, each of which can be applied by nurse leaders in their work. Identifying the particular employees or groups that resist the change and spread negative ideas about it is the first step in addressing the resistance to change. This can help to narrow the focus of nurse leaders’ efforts and prevent other workers from developing similar views.

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Ensuring adequate communication regarding the change and the implementation process is the second step in reducing employees’ fear of change and promoting positive attitudes toward it (Yılmaz & Kılıçoğlu, 2013). Employees should receive full information about the change, including its effects, benefits, and necessity.

Another practice that can help nurse leaders to address resistance to change is employee training and education. As resistance to change may be caused by the lack of certain skills and knowledge, ensuring that employees have proper training will assist in the implementation process. Fostering employee involvement and participation is also imperative to reducing resistance to change (Blount & Carroll, 2017). In cases where the change threatens certain employees or is faced with ideological opposition, nurse leaders should engage in negotiation and remain open to employees’ propositions and ideas.

Lastly, nurse leaders should include employee support structures in their plan for change implementation. Employees should understand the persons responsible for the particular change processes and know whom to contact in case of any concerns. Employees’ concerns and complaints should be reviewed by nurse leaders, who can then introduce minor alterations, provide more information, or find another solution to the employee’s problem. All in all, the best practices identified above impact the work of nurse leaders by enabling them to address resistance to change successfully, thus contributing to their change implementation efforts.

Application, Implications, and Consequences

Nurse leaders can apply the proposed strategies at all stages of the change implementation process. For example, prior to starting the process, it would be useful to provide information about the change to staff and encourage them to participate by submitting suggestions, concerns, and ideas. After the implementation begins, nurse leaders can create support mechanisms and identify any employees that are resistant to change.

The implications and consequences of applying the best practices to overcome resistance to change are significant. Firstly, these strategies help to relieve the stress caused by organizational change, thus supporting both employees and nurse leaders in its implementation. Secondly, they can assist in enhancing the change process by encouraging employees and allowing them to submit ideas and suggestions for improvement. Finally, these practices ensure the success of change by increasing employee engagement and dedication to the change process.


The present paper showed that resistance to change is a crucial concept that impairs the work of nurse leaders during organizational change. As a result, resistance creates barriers to the success of healthcare organizations by not allowing them to introduce positive changes or adapt to shifts in the external environment. There are three main factors causing resistance to change: personal, ideological, and organizational.

To address these factors, nurse leaders should facilitate open two-way communication regarding the change process, involve employees in decision-making, and provide training, information, and education necessary to participate in the change. Using these best practices will allow nurse leaders to be more successful in change implementation, thus enhancing the work of their organizations.

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Bateh, J., Castaneda, M. E., & Farah, J. E. (2013). Employee resistance to organizational change. International Journal of Management & Information Systems, 17(2), 113-116.

Blount, S., & Carroll, S. (2017). Overcome resistance to change with two conversations. Harvard Business Review. Web.

Salam, M., & Alghamdi, K. S. (2016). Nurse educators: Introducing a change and evading resistance. Journal of Nursing Education and Practice, 6(11), 80-83.

Yılmaz, D., & Kılıçoğlu, G. (2013). Resistance to change and ways of reducing resistance in educational organizations. European Journal of Research on Education, 1(1), 14-21.

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