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Written by

Amanda Hill

Posted On

August 27, 2020

Change is hard, and lately, life has felt like nothing but a change from our normal routine.  Whether it’s how we are screening patients, the PPE we are donning and doffing, the turning over of rooms, or the pace of the office — and that’s just at work!  Our home lives have been changed as well. We aren’t going out and about, kids are stuck at home with no summer camps or daycare, spouses may be working from home and while your dog might be loving it, the rest of the family might be a bit weary!  It all looks and feels different and there are no real guesses on when life will go back to “normal” – if ever!  How can we embrace change and help our team and family do the same?

First, it’s key to understand that change is much like grieving.  Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, renowned psychiatrist on grief and bereavement, wrote about “The Five Stages Of Grief.” Over the years, that has been adapted into something called “The Change Curve”.  This model describes the internal and emotional journey that an individual embarks on when confronted with change.

The stages that Kubler-Ross identifies are shock, denial, frustration, depression, experiment, decision, and integration. The stages aren’t necessarily linear, one can bounce back and forth between them as they process change.  How can one proceed through the stages swiftly and get to implementing the changes that need to occur?  Recognizing what stage someone is in can help you guide them (or yourself!) to make change easier – to get through the stages faster.


We can all relate to this one.  Mid-March when the country shut down, I think we were all in shock that it was actually happening.  How on Earth could a little virus stop us from living our normal lives?  Once we had a moment to digest this reality some of us moved swiftly into the next stage, others…not so much.



Denial came on fast for many.  In fact, we all have some Facebook friends that are stuck in this stage. Social media doesn’t help with this, the misinformation is rampant.  We can help our team members by reminding them how to think critically and point them to trustworthy sources.  My Aunt Caren is another issue altogether, I’m not sure any amount of science will move her from this stage……



This is the moment when we realize this really stinks!  Sometimes anger and blame will emerge.  It has been hard not to go on with business as usual and getting mad is a normal feeling.  Finding the supplies we need, keeping the checkbook balanced, and even understanding the ever-changing rules are enough to get your blood pressure up.   Keep the lines of communication open but try not to feed into the anger of others and get defensive.  If someone is lashing out at you, understand it’s not really about you. It’s the situation, the lack of control, and more than likely fear.  



While this doesn’t need to be full-blown clinical depression, it could certainly manifest that way. We are now at the bottom of the curve. This is a time for empathy.  If you have team members here let them know you understand their frustration and that perhaps you feel it too.  Don’t try and minimize how you or others are feeling and be sure to practice your active listening.  The stages up to this point have been a process of holding onto what was.  Feelings will change and sliding back and forth between stages is to be expected.



As we enter this stage, some acceptance is key in order to begin to climb back up the curve.  At this point, there is some initial engagement in figuring out ways to move forward.  This is a time to be open to new ideas.  Shutting down someone in this stage could quickly push them back down the curve.  There is still a lot of trepidation at this stage. Think of it as one toe in the water, if you push them in they might never want to swim again.



Now we are really moving up the curve!  In this stage, we are feeling more positive.  That can-do attitude is coming back into play and we are ready to establish some new systems and protocols.  



This is the “back in the saddle” stage.  The new changes have been integrated, attitudes are positive and team members feel renewed. This is where everyone takes a huge sigh of relief for riding the wave to the end.

We are still in a state of change with this novel virus and change is bound to keep happening as we find our way forward.  But the key is moving forward and, hopefully, staying on the upside of the curve.  It’s bound to be a slippery slope but recognizing where you and others are in the Change Curve Model is a great way to get insight into the emotional stages involved with change.  When we are able to recognize and manage each stage uniquely, the journey to integration can be smoother and more successful.

Amanda HIll

Amanda Hill, RDH, BS has been in the dental industry for over 30 years, she earned her B.S. in Dental Hygiene at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia and has had the opportunity to experience dentistry around the world.   Amanda  has a love for learning and is obsessed with continuing education in all its many forms.  Amanda practices part time clinically and is an industry educator for the nation’s largest dental job board, DentalPost.net.  Amanda is a proud Navy spouse and mom of 3.

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