By Ken Donaldson
For anyone working for NHS D&G it is unlikely that you have failed to recognise that at the end of the year some of us will be moving in to a new hospital. I am aware this will not directly effect those of you who work in the community or services that are not moving across to the new site but it is likely to have some impact. This is an exciting time; the building itself will be quite spectacular and it offers lots of opportunities for change.
That change is coming is apparent. In December we will move to the new site and whilst I am quietly terrified at the prospect of this move it is not what this blog is about. Nor do I want to talk about change but its accompanying partner, transition. So what is the difference? Well change is situational, the physical move, how we will get all the equipment, beds and kit across to the shiny new building. Its how we move the patients and ourselves and, then, start to work in the new environment. This may sound like a transition but its not the same thing. Transition is psychological, how we actually deal with this momentous move.
We have all been through transition before; starting a new job, moving house, taking a newborn baby home for the first time. And although you may not realise it you have gone through a process during that transition. There are three broad stages to transition. First we ‘let go’ of the old ways then we enter a ‘neutral zone’, where we are neither doing the old or the new, and finally we have a ‘new beginning’. If we take the newborn baby example then we can see that whilst there are so many wonderful aspects of bringing your first baby home there are also many things that we have to let go; a good nights sleep, a significant amount of money and the freedom to just go away for the weekend to name a few. Most people just get on with it and accept the losses but others can struggle. The neutral zone may be brief but still exists, often at 2am! As the dust settles and visitors stop coming so often and reality sinks in. This is it now, no going back. After that the new beginning as we settle in and accept the new way of life. The transition process is different for all of us and for some may happen very quickly, over days. However for others it may take a lot longer. Sometimes just knowing that this is a process can help.
This stage can feel akin to bereavement. The emotions we go through are similar and the ‘Transition curve’ is to all intents and purposes identical to the ‘Grieving curve’ or stages of bereavement. When we know change is coming (as we do right now) then we can enter a state of denial which is entirely normal and hopefully doesn’t last too long. This is followed by anger, bargaining, anxiety, depression before being followed by understanding, acceptance and moving on. Not everyone experiences these emotions and some are fleeting but the reality is that they will all be manifest in our teams to varying degrees as the move to the new hospital approaches and ultimately happens. There is not a vast amount that can be done to deal with this process other than recognise it and support each other through it but small gestures can help; we want to remember the ‘old’ hospital so what can we take other than memories? Perhaps you can make up a photograph album for your area or ensure that some memorable artefacts (posters, pictures, the Ward Gonk) are not forgotten and adorn the new environment.
The neutral zone
So this unusually named area, like something out of Superman (okay, that was the Phantom Zone and was in Supergirl; the neutral zone was, apparently, in Star Trek, but I’m no Trekkie) is a bit of a psychological no-mans land. It is the time when the old way has gone but the new way does not feel comfortable yet. It is important to recognise this zone and not try to rush through it prematurely. Its also important not to be frightened of it and try to escape i.e. get a new job. People do this frequently and it is rarely the right thing for them or the organisation. Finally, recognising this area and staying with it is important because it is often the time of real innovation and a chance to revitalise our services. The neutral zone is an area of opportunity, a chance to replace old habits with new ones more suited to the new environment.
A new beginning
New beginnings are much more than starts. We will ‘start’ in the new hospital the Monday after the migration when the majority of staff and all patients have moved. And we will get on with it, of that I have no doubt. It is going to be a real challenge coping with the move then a few weeks later the Christmas/New Year double whammy and THEN January! But I suspect the majority of us will still be in a neutral zone just coming to terms with the new environment and will not yet have made the new beginning. Starts involve new situations, beginnings involve new understandings, new values, new attitudes and new identities. This can take time and may take longer as we will be extremely busy just keeping the new hospital functioning but, again, its important we recognise that it has to happen. If we don’t move to the new beginning then we can hold our team back, sound like a stuck record “It wouldn’t have happened like this in the old hospital” etc.
There is no doubt the next 6 months will be hard. There will be increasing visits to the new DGRI and next month the structure will be complete and we will have ‘the keys’. I suspect December will loom ever larger on the horizon as the migration and all that entails becomes a reality. As I said above I am positive that we will just get on with it and things will work out fine, albeit there are bound to be some bumps along the way. But I think it is important that we recognise the psychological impact on all of us involved in the move. It will have a massive impact on our lives and if we understand just a little of why we are feeling the way we most certainly will feel then that may help us all get through it. That and looking out for each other, remembering to be kind and a smidgen of gin.
By Julie White
We are now only weeks away from our staff and patients being able to experience the benefits of a modern, state of the art hospital which will enable us to continue to provide the highest possible standards of care to our patients in the 21st Century. However this change means a significant transition for many of us. Transition has been defined as any event, or non-event, that results in changed relationships, routines or roles. (Schlossberg, N 1995) The move to the new hospital will mean changes to routines, working relationships and roles for a large group of our staff. However, we all go through transitions, big and small, as part of our everyday lives. How we deal with these transitions is important……
Right now, for me and my family, we are going through a transition which will be familiar to many. My 11 year old son, Adam, is just about to undergo the transition from primary to secondary school. Whilst the school have worked hard to prepare him for this move, Adam is having to ‘let go’ of the comfort blanket of primary school, being one of the ‘big boys’ and having the security of a well-known routine and the familiar faces of teachers and pupils. I am also having to ‘let go’ and accept that Adam is becoming more independent (even allowing him to walk to the end of the road to catch the bus to Lockerbie!). This transition is huge for both of us, for different reasons.
I recognise, however, that we are entering a new phase and there is no going back now. I have to admit, however, I am far more nervous about the future than Adam is – he has the fantastic ability to see this as an adventure, an opportunity to learn new things and make new friends. He also particularly liked the lunches at the Academy when he visited which is always good news for an 11 year old boy!!!. I am anxious about the move to a much larger school, worried that he will need to make new friends (whom I won’t initially know) and that our very close relationship may change as he nears the teenage years!!. I know, however, that I will do everything I can to make this transition a success as I will do with another major transition in my life – the move to the new hospital.
It is less than 4 weeks until we ‘get the keys’ to the new hospital and we can begin our commissioning and migration process. Feedback from staff who have had the opportunity to visit has been overwhelmingly positive. All staff will have the opportunity to visit for orientation sessions between September and the end of November (if you haven’t booked a slot yet please do so!).
Whilst the move to a brand new state of the art hospital will be an exciting prospect for many, it is important to recognise that for some staff, the move will evoke emotions such as fear, loss, anxiety and sadness. We have lots of staff who have spent most of their working lives in DGRI (some of whom have worked in the same ward or clinical area for 20 years or more) and we cannot underestimate the scale of the transition for lots of us. Some staff will also have memories of being a patient (or having friends and family members cared for in the existing hospital) and we have a general attachment to the past, to our history here and to our memories of the good times. I would encourage staff to think of ways of ensuring that you and your teams don’t forget the good times and take photos and memorable artefacts with you. The new build team will also be ensuring that some of the treasured artwork from our existing hospital is incorporated in the new DGRI eg the tree of life. I am sure we will all create new memories and have good times in the new hospital but it’s important not to forget the past.
In order to help with the transition process, we are planning a couple of events to celebrate our new beginning and to recognise the varied emotions that people will experience.. We will hold our annual Winter Service at Crichton Church with a theme of “ new beginnings”. I also hope to hold an event in the Atrium of the new hospital soon after the move to acknowledge the huge amount of work undertaken by staff, celebrate the fact that we have had a safe, successful and smooth move (which I am confident we will achieve by pulling together) and to focus on our future in our new surroundings. If anyone has any ideas about how else we could mark our transition, please get in touch.
I would also like to acknowledge that not everyone in the current hospital will move to the new facility. Some staff will choose to retire or leave but other teams will be moving to Mountainhall Treatment Centre (Cresswell to us all just now!) and I fully appreciate that these teams will experience different emotions when the move to the new DGRI takes place. We will work hard to ensure that we support all staff during this transition and it would be great to hear people’s thoughts about how they can best be supported during this time.
Julie White is Chief Operating Officer and Ken Donaldson is Deputy Medical Director Acute Services at NHS Dumfries and Galloway.
Bridges, William. Managing Transitions. 3rd ed. Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2009.
Kubler-Ross, Elizabeth. On Death & Dying. Scribner, 2014.