Most of us are creatures of habit. We crave a daily work routine that allows us to become comfortable. If we work at one job for a while, or on the same floor, then we know what to expect. Sometimes to the point that we might almost feel as if we’re just going through the motions.
Predictability is good, right? Who likes change?
Well, it turns out—I do.
Adjusting my attitude about change enabled me to be more open to examining new options. It saved me from worrying about the what ifs I feared could accompany a change in my work environment.
Often, we reflexively resist change. Even if change is inevitable, we might guard and protect our cherished routine. We may fear failing at new tasks, or that we won’t be as efficient, or dislike the loss of control that can accompany change.
My first job as a new nurse was at the state psychiatric hospital to care for patients diagnosed with long-term chronic mental illness. I was initially assigned to one of the geriatric units. The length of stay for these patients could span for years. Most of their habits were known, and a daily routine was developed. Although this hospital, like many, has to maintain adequate staffing based on patient needs. When a nurse calls off, or is on vacation, nurses may need to be reassigned to meet adequate staffing for each unit.
Some units required a higher staff quota due to patients with orders of higher levels of observation. This was often true for the admission ward. These new patients had unpredictable needs, which often required increased staffing levels due to the potential for unsafe behaviors, as they became accustomed to their new environment.
Most nurses weren’t happy if they were asked to change their routine and work on the admission unit, so I assumed I wouldn’t like it either.
The Spice of Life
I had the lowest seniority. That meant I was frequently moved to the admission unit for RN coverage. Although after some reflection, I discovered I liked working on the admission ward, and partly because I liked change. Ongoing change was at the root of what I enjoyed most about working on this unit. Every unit had psychiatric patients, but most required long-term care. Only the admission unit had a variety of ages and diagnoses. As soon as you got to know the patient fairly well, they were moved to another unit to make room for a new admission.
In some ways, the unfamiliar, ever-changing environment of the admission unit might be described as having some similarities to travel nursing. Change is the norm, but often it can be a good thing.
This nursing position gave me the opportunity to learn new things, not just about my job and the nursing profession, but also about myself. Rather than worry about having my unit changed, or a change in routine, I came to expect and embrace it.
By taking the risk to embrace the positive aspects of change, rather than assume the negative perspective of most of the crowd, it enabled me to grow in my nursing career.
- The fast-paced work environment made me think on my feet, seek solutions, become creative with prioritizing tasks, and it reduced monotony or boredom.
- New situations provided me with a variety of valuable experiences and allowed me to challenge myself and explore a fresh approach to different tasks.
- Working with a variety of patient diagnoses and varying patient needs provided me with the opportunity to refine my nursing skills, something I wouldn’t have experienced if I’d stayed on the same unit.
- The opportunity to meet and work with a variety of staff that may have been pulled in from other units, or even other parts of the hospital allowed me to expand upon my professional network.
Don’t Just Survive — Thrive
Eventually, I was moved to the admission unit permanently. There were times when I longed for a more predictable work day, and less paperwork, but I’d gotten more efficient, better at assessment, and developed a fresh perspective on change.
I became a better nurse as I gained a greater respect and empathy for new admissions. I tried to experience change through their eyes, and determine how to make the admission experience a little less anxiety provoking.
I’ve taken those valuable lessons on change with me when I advanced in my career and left that position. If we spent our entire life never changing anything we might not realize that we may have become bored, or unchallenged, in our work.