Don’t simply announce your change ideas. Successfully implement them with Stories.

Adam works as a corporate communications head in a hospital and is just about to announce a new initiative to the entire hospital, the formation of a Pediatric Rapid Response Team.

So what is the Rapid Response Initiative?

In the usual hospital setting, escalating care for a deteriorating patient is mostly a hierarchal process with nurses informing the ward doctors who will review the patient, and then may get a more senior doctor to review, and finally, the patient being reviewed by the Intensive Care Team and being transferred to Intensive Care, if required. This all takes time, which when a child’s health is deteriorating, is crucial. The Rapid Response initiative is a process whereupon noticing the first signs of deterioration or concern, any hospital staff or particularly parents (who may not know what is wrong but do know that something is wrong with their child) are able to urgently inform a specialised team of doctors and nurses who will arrive at the ward and give immediate attention to the patient.

The desired outcome from Adam’s presentation is that everyone approves of the initiative and work towards making it successful. But would Adam get the support he is looking for if he was simply to announce the change? Probably not, because he is asking people to stop doing what they know and have always been doing, to start doing something new and risk control being taken away from them. There would be worries like:

“Why change something that seems to be working ok?”

“The Rapid Response team would take over my patient and we would lose control over the care of the patient.”

“Parents or relatives would have the ability to circumvent our authority. They may misuse the ability to call in another team.”

Here is what I would suggest that Adam do to successfully introduce the change.

STEP 1: Tell a Failure Story to get the audience’s attention

Adam’s need is to stimulate a desire for action but if he doesnt have the audience’s attention, his story is falling on deaf ears. To get attention, you need to tell a Failure Story. Rivet the audience with a story and kill that little voice in their heads that says – I have emails building up, I have to get to my next clinic, this is just more administrative nonsense and I need to get out of here.

The Failure Story in John’s case would be the story on this video: On February 22, 2001, eighteen-month old Josie died from medical errors… Please watch the video here 

STEP 2: Tell a Success Story to catalyse change

This is the most crucial step of your presentation and the one that sparks the desire to change. Share a success story of an individual who benefited from Pediatric Rapid Response initiative.

The Success Story in this case could be: 16-month old Logan was admitted to the emergency department. Logan had breathing problems and the doctors had advised for him to stay in the hospital to monitor him. Overnight, Logan’s health started deteriorating. His heart rate and respiratory were very high. At 4am in the morning (a period where staffing is low, staff are tired and overworked and the risk of something going wrong increases), Logan’s mother Angela informed the nurse. Instead of the usual hierarchy of escalating the care, the Pediatric Rapid Response Team was called to stablise Logan. An immediate decision was made to take Logan to ICU. Logan was stablised and saved by immediate action on the initial signs. But imagine if we were to follow the same old protocol, would Logan have been ok?

What is most important here is that you are issuing an invitation to imagine but not concluding anything for your audience. It’s up to your audience to make the decision, but with the two stories, you have firstly captured their attention and then shown them the positive benefit of change.

STEP 3: Tell facts to reinforce with reasons

Motivating people to want to change is important, but not enough. The desire to change may wear off unless we are reinforcing and telling facts, which support our change idea.

In Adam’s case, facts could be that the North Carolina Children’s Hospital reported 2012 as a cardiac arrest-free year due to the Rapid Response Team’s efforts.

The three-step simple process to craft your next change presentation will not only inform but inspire the audience to embrace the change.

To discuss how we can work with you to implement stories for change management, please contact us, we would love to hear from you. More information on incorporating Storytelling into your health practice in our Narrative Medicine Programme.


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