Implementing Change in Respiratory Care

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Though people are generally averse to change, change and innovation are critically important in respiratory care to maintain scientific and clinical progress. This paper reviews the issue of change in respiratory care. I summarize several available models of organizational and personal change (ie, those of Kotter and of Silversin and Kornacki, and the Intentional Change Theory of Boyatzis), review the characteristics of change-avid respiratory therapy departments, offer an example of a change effort in respiratory care (implementation of respiratory care protocols) and then analyze this change effort as it took place at one institution, the Cleveland Clinic, using these models. Finally, I present the results of an analysis of change-avid respiratory therapy departments and offer some suggestions regarding change management for the profession and for individual respiratory care clinicians. Common features of theories of organizational change include developing a sense of urgency, overcoming resistance, developing a guiding coalition, and involving key stakeholders early. With the understanding that change efforts may seem unduly “clean” and orderly in retrospect, the models help explain the sustainable success of efforts to implement the Respiratory Therapy Consult Service at the Cleveland Clinic. By implication, these models offer value in planning change efforts prospectively. Further analysis of features of change-avid respiratory therapy departments indicates 11 highly desired features, of which four that especially characterize change-avid departments include: having an up-to-date leadership team; employee involvement in change; celebrating wins; and an overall sense of progressiveness in the department. This analysis suggests that understanding and embracing change is important. To anchor change in our profession, greater attention should be given to developing a pipeline of respiratory care clinicians who, by virtue of their advanced training, have the skills to innovate in respiratory care in various ways.

Keywords: change; respiratory care; respiratory care protocols

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2010

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