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What is Change Theory?

Nurse Mike (Mike Linares)
By SimpleNursing | Published June 12th, 2023
Published June 12th, 2023
Medical professional uses laptop at hospital. Unrecognizable Caucasian nurse writes something while using a computer in a doctor's office or hospital.

In the dynamic world of nursing, understanding and applying change theory is crucial for aspiring nursing school students. Change theory plays a vital role in the nursing profession, empowering nursing school students to adapt, grow, and succeed in an ever-changing healthcare environment. 

The Change Model is a concise representation of Lewin’s Change Management Theory. As future nurses, it is vital to recognize that change is a constant in healthcare. By applying Lewin’s theory, you will be equipped to navigate the ever-changing landscape of healthcare and significantly impact patient care. 

By understanding the principles of change theory, such as Lewin’s Change Model, you can develop the mindset and skills needed to embrace change, make informed decisions, and provide the highest quality patient care. Embrace change, seize growth opportunities, and embark on a transformative nursing journey filled with endless possibilities.

What is change theory (in nursing)?

As nursing students, you are embarking on a journey that will lead you to a profession known for its rapid advancements and constant evolution. Change theory in nursing provides a framework to understand, manage, and adapt to the inevitable transformations you will encounter throughout your nursing career. 

Change theory is a structured approach to understanding and managing the process of change in healthcare environments. It equips nurses with the knowledge and skills needed to facilitate smooth transitions and overcome potential barriers when implementing changes in patient care, healthcare policies, and organizational practices.

Lewin’s Change Model

One of the most influential change models in nursing is Lewin’s Change Model, developed by Kurt Lewin, a renowned psychologist. This model consists of three key stages: unfreezing, changing, and refreezing. 

The stages of Lewin’s Change Model include:

  1. Unfreezing 
  2. Changing 
  3. Refreezing

3-Stage Model of Change

The Change Model is a valuable framework to understand the dynamic nature of healthcare and the importance of adaptation. In order to effectively thrive in this ever-evolving field, healthcare organizations must be able to adjust and respond accordingly. The Change Model, inspired by Lewin’s Change Management Theory, offers guidance.

Lewin’s theory is widely respected among nurses in all specialties for enhancing patient care. It posits that individuals and groups are influenced by both restraining forces that maintain the status quo and driving forces that propel change forward. The interplay between these opposing forces creates a delicate balance.

Let’s think of healthcare organizations as dynamic ecosystems composed of diverse components, each with its own complexity and opinions. Managing such a system can be likened to herding cats. However, we can successfully navigate this complex landscape with Lewin’s Change Management Theory.

Stage 1: Unfreezing

This initial stage aims to create awareness and willingness among individuals to embrace change. Nursing students can relate to this stage as they embark on their educational journey. Unfreezing involves acknowledging the need for change, challenging existing beliefs or practices, and fostering a mindset open to new ideas and approaches.

This entails raising awareness about the existing problem. We must let go of old habits and disrupt the current equilibrium. Activities such as education, challenging the status quo, and shedding light on the issues are crucial during this phase.

Stage 2: Changing (or Moving)

The stage involves implementing and integrating the desired changes. In nursing school, this can be seen in the application of evidence-based practice, where students are encouraged to update their knowledge and adapt their skills based on the latest research findings. 

This is the stage to explore alternatives and demonstrate the benefits of change to everyone involved. We also need to reduce the negative forces that resist change. Brainstorming, modeling new approaches, coaching, and training play important roles in this stage. The objective is to shake things up and ensure that everyone recognizes the value of the proposed changes.

Stage 3: Refreezing

In the final stage, the focus is on reinforcing and solidifying the newly implemented changes. Refreezing aims to establish the change as the new norm, ensuring its sustainability over time. This stage occurs during clinical placements and internships, where they apply their acquired knowledge and skills in real healthcare settings. 

It’s essential to continuously evaluate and refine the changes to ensure they align with evolving patient needs and evidence-based practices.

After introducing the necessary changes, we must integrate the new practices into the system, aiming for them to become the new standard and resist further change. This stage involves celebrating successes, providing additional training as required, and monitoring Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to ensure progress.

Enhance Your Understanding of Change Theory and its Practical Applications

As you embark on your nursing education journey, it is crucial to understand that change is an inherent part of the nursing profession. By embracing change theory and models like Lewin’s Change Model, you can confidently navigate these transformations. 

SimpleNursing helps enhance your understanding of nursing theories, such as change theory, and equips you with the knowledge and skills needed to thrive in a constantly evolving healthcare landscape. 

Sign up today for a free trial and unlock your nursing potential.

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Nurse Mike (Mike Linares)
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