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  • Looking after each other in times of change

    Sally Howard
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    In her latest blog, Sally Howard, talks about our changing world, why transitions are so difficult and what we can do to look after each other along the way.


    My original plan for this blog was to explore why change is a bit Marmite – some of us love change (the ‘bring it on’ group), and others less so. Then the COVID-19 jar was opened and everything changed.

    We are all impacted in different ways, both staff and patients. Whether it’s even more time at work, less time with those we love, wanting to be at work but having to self isolate, loss of our identity as the one who always does x or y, how as patients we interact with our NHS, or the loss of those we love.

    Transitions are challenging

    William Bridges says it isn’t the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions. Change is something that happens to people, even if they don't agree with it. Transition, on the other hand, is internal. It's what happens in people's minds as they go through change. Change can happen very quickly, while transition usually occurs more slowly as we internalise and come to terms with the details of the new situation that the change brings about.

    Stages of transitioning include:

    • Ending - letting go of the old ways and the old identity.
    • The neutral zone - going through an in-between time when the old is gone but the new isn’t fully operational, when the critical psychological re-alignments and re-patterning take place.
    • New beginnings – when we come out of the transition and develop a new identity, experience a new energy and discover a new sense of purpose.

    3 tips for dealing with transition

    So what can we do to ease the transition? Here’s my three As for the day:


    Accept that we will each make our transition at different paces. For some shock and denial through to acceptance and hope is rapid, for others it may take longer. So more than ever looking after each other is key. Steve Covey’s talks about making a deposit in the emotional bank account: understanding your friend, your colleague, a small act of kindness. What will be a deposit for you, may be a valuable withdrawal for them.


    There’s already a zillion examples of people moving hell and high water to do what needs to be done to best respond to COVID-19, positive energy is thriving. Appreciating this is just as important. We can show our appreciation locally in our teams, on an individual basis or by joining the nation in clapping those who are helping to keep our world turning,.


    Be aware of high levels of anxiety and exhaustion in yourself and those around you. We are all stressed by different things. For some it’s spending too much time alone. Others ambiguity and uncertainty. Some will struggle most with decisions they think are illogical, last minute or require super human endeavours.   

    Knowing our own limits and triggers and those of people around us is key. When you spot them, pause just for a vital moment, take a brief step back before anyone keels over and think through next steps. Explore information and ideas and talk them through with others. And where you can see that someone isn’t in a good place, give them permission to re-charge their batteries so their brilliance can continue to shine.

    “Not in his goals but in his transitions man is great.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson


    William Bridges, Bridges Transition Model, 1988.

    Stephen R. Covey. The seven habits of highly effective people. Franklin Covey, 1990.

    Previous blogs by Sally

    Leading for improvement

    Immunity to change

    How a single piece of paper could help solve complex patient safety issues

    The art of wobbling: Part 1

    The art of wobbling: Part 2


    About the Author

    Sally has held national and local leadership roles within the NHS in a career spanning more than 30 years. A respected leader, passionate about improvement and inclusivity, she is trained in quality improvement methodologies and has spent the last 20 years in their practical application.

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    One of the most powerful responses I’ve heard to the pandemic. Wonderful insight and advice. Thank you, Sally. I’m going to share widely. Helen 

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