Advocating For Change

by Bonita Katz, BA RN ICCE ICBD IAT CLC

I’ve been asked several times in the last few weeks about advocating for change. Where do we start? What is the best way to go about it? All around the world change is needed in maternal-child health.  In some places great strides have been made in improving outcomes, but much work remains to be done. How do we as birth workers facilitate change? The few suggestions below are not an exhaustive list, but provide a place to start.

Start Small

Look for small changes that can be accomplished relatively quickly and easily. Develop an easy-to-use check-off list. Institute a time-saving procedure. Find a cheaper (but still effective) alternative. Small changes that can be easily implemented allow you to celebrate a victory sooner rather than later. Those small victories make change more palatable. Once that improvement is in place people become more open to other changes.

Positive Reinforcement

People respond more favorably to praise than to criticism. What is being done right in the place where you work? Did that nurse go the extra mile in advocating for her patient? Make sure she knows how much that is appreciated. Praise the childbirth educator that took time to do extra research so that she could better help the parents with a complicated pregnancy. Encourage the doula that spotted a problem in a postpartum visit that otherwise may have been missed. Positive reinforcement builds an atmosphere of cooperation and support which is invaluable when instituting change.

Take The Long View

Meaningful, lasting change rarely happens quickly. You may have a wonderful vision of how to improve care for women, but imparting that vision to others so that they join your efforts takes time. Taking small steps and building an encouraging atmosphere paves the way to that vision, but the process almost always takes longer than we would like.

Know Your “Why”

What is the motivation for the change? Perhaps this should have been the first step that I mentioned. If the reason for change is financial gain for an institution or personal ambition it is much more difficult to rally the support of others. If your “why” (your motivation) is to improve healthcare for women or to give families a healthier start, others are much more likely to help. Set forth the vision you have in a phrase that people can carry with them.

A nurtured world through professionals trained in family centered maternity and newborn care is the vision of ICEA. We have values and goals to help us achieve that vision. Each of us plays a part in accomplishing that purpose. We would like to hear what you are doing. Take the time to find the contact information for the ICEA Board on the web site. Drop us a line. Let’s encourage one another with our stories. Looking forward to hearing from you!