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  • Writer's pictureTristan Charles

Challenging The Status Quo in Healthcare

THE. STATUS. QUO. The three most dangerous words to any business. So easy to fall prey to. So hard to recognise and break free from within.

The Status Quo is a set of presumed beliefs and cultural norms that dictate the way we act within a structured organisation. Make sense? You could even go as far to say that the status quo and the culture of an organisation are THE SAME THING.

So why is The Status Quo so dangerous? Well, it depends. From a point of efficiency and productivity, it's not so bad. Having everyone within an organisation knowing how to act, what to do and where they fit within the organisational structure can save huge headaches for management. But what if the acts of efficiency and productivity are focussed in the WRONG DIRECTION?

Imagine if you’ve spent months training for a big race. You know you are faster than anyone else on the track, but when the race starts you run in the wrong direction. Who cares how fast you are running when you are moving away from the goal? In fact, some could argue you are doing more damage by moving so fast!

This is the trap any organisation can fall into - getting so focussed on being productive that no one stops to ask if they are moving in the right direction. And healthcare is notorious for this.

There are a few underlying factors why this is the case.

  1. Healthcare professionals are trained to be evidence-based and following guidelines and protocols...some may say blindly at times.

  2. Because we are dealing with peoples’ lives, it is difficult (and unethical) to experiment and deviate from the safety of the norm.

  3. Incentives and systems for the majority of healthcare workers are simply not there to enact change, and some would argue that people who pop their heads up are quickly chopped down (AKA Tall Poppy Syndrome)

But what if the guidelines and protocols you are following are out of date, or even wrong? What if for this specific patient, the typical treatment pathway or protocol selection is not the best option? What if when you suggest a change, you are met with the age old saying “that’s the way we’ve always done things here”?

Physical violence aside, I want you to start thinking like Batman in the above picture. Become the custodian of progress and change in your department. Don’t let The Status Quo edge its way into your organisations’ culture. STAND UP AND BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE!

Maybe I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Let’s look at some practical solutions on how you can successfully challenge the status quo in healthcare.

  1. Pick your battles. Life isn’t perfect, and this includes your workplace. Sometimes shit happens and you need to deal with it. Saying that, if shit happens on a regular basis, and when it does happen it hits the proverbial fan, then maybe it is time to step in and analyse the situation.

  2. Ask Questions. Don’t take a protocol or guideline as if it's written in stone. Critically analyse why things are done a certain way in your department. Weigh up the pros and cons and the outcomes of your workflow, and you’ll probably start to unearth a whole lot of cracks.

  3. Do your research. As a manager, there is nothing more frustrating than an employee coming to you with their problems, but they clearly have put zero thought into possible solutions. If you think something in your workplace needs to change, don’t automatically jump up and down and make a fuss about it. Make a note of it, then go away and research the topic so that when your manager or other colleagues push back at your suggestions, you have the ammunition you need to counter their fears of change.

  4. Remember where you came from, but be prepared to let go. Having a new radiographer start in a team can be a great catalyst for change. Every workplace has its’ own unique ways of doing things. Whether or not this is better or worse than any other workplace, that’s debatable. Nobody appreciates the cowboy or cowgirl who crashes into the saloon, pistols drawn and abruptly starts causing a ruckus. This goes back to the above point about doing your research; if you notice that your new workplace does something differently, don’t automatically lecture everyone that it’s not how you did things at your previous job. Make a note of it, then go away and critically analyse the pros and cons of each method. Then if you think you have grounds to suggest a change, you can present your reasons in a calm and persuasive way.

  5. Put your ego aside. People will hold onto a dying idea until their last breath, purely because it is THEIR idea. We can get caught up in being the enactor of change or the hero, that we lose sight of the bigger picture - and that is to make sure the organisation is moving in the right direction which benefits the workers, management, and most importantly, the patient. Don’t let your ego blind you to a bad idea.

  6. Create a culture that embraces change. This is a huge task, and is definitely not something that you can do on your own. Culture is formed by repetitive behaviour patterns and feedback loops. If you act a certain way and something good happens, this behaviour will be reinforced for the next time a similar scenario arises. On the contrary, let’s say you put your hand up at a staff meeting to make a suggestion, and you are instantly met with counter arguments and push back without a reasonable debate, how likely are you going to put your hand up at the next meeting? Culture is formed on the ground level of an organisation, and is reinforced by management. Something to remember when you find yourself on either side of this line during your career.


If you would like to learn more about how to enact positive change in your organisation, I am available for one-on-one coaching sessions. Whether you are a radiographer, healthcare administrator, or other healthcare professional, get in touch here.

If you are a radiographer looking to make the next big step in your career, check out my CT Mentorship Program. This program covers everything from navigating the healthcare industry, self-care, patient care and all the clinical and technical skills you need to become an amazing CT radiographer.

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