The Patterson Foundation sponsored a two-and-a-half day Public Innovators Lab a few months ago presented by The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation. The Lab shared methods for individuals and organizations to connect in powerful ways and create positive conditions for change. A core concept of creating change is identifying the “community’s stage.” The Harwood Institute has defined 5 Stages of Community Life including the Waiting Place, Impasse, Catalytic, Growth, and Sustain and Renew. The program led participants into a deeper understanding of the stages and how to strengthen towards positive movement.

Each participant selected a community with which they were working to identify the initiative’s Stage of Community Life. I selected the Suncoast Nursing Action Coalition (SNAC). SNAC is a community, a coalition founded three years ago comprised of area leaders from healthcare employers, nursing education, and the community members who have a passion to improve access to higher quality care in this region through the vast resources of nursing.

Considering Harwood’s five stages, it was clear to me that SNAC is firmly at the Catalytic stage of Community Life. Here are the criteria and just a few examples of how SNAC members are catalysts of change making welcome SNAC’s emergence into further growth:

  • The Catalytic stage starts with small steps that are often imperceptible to the vast majority of people in the community. SNAC is taking incremental steps such as identifying strategies for change, creating a nursing navigator, and awarding scholarships to reduce the financial barriers needed for academic progression of nurses.
  • Small numbers of people and organizations begin to emerge taking risks and experimenting in ways that challenge existing norms in how the community works. Local educational institutions are working together and are modifying their programs to increase their capacity; hospitals’ Chief Nursing Officers are meeting and discussing best practices.
  • The size of their actions is not the vital gauge. Their actions produce some semblance of results that give people a sense of hope. At SNAC’s inception, the big question was, “Will participants continue to show up?” Members not only attend meetings, but they are engaged and passionate while accomplishing SNAC’s intentions and propelling the movement forward.
  • The number of people stepping forward increases, and links and networks are built among them. SNAC’s participation has consistently increased. More organizations and leaders are involved, and more funders are supporting SNAC. The Florida Action Coalition is asking SNAC to share what it is learning and doing with other regions.
  • A challenge in this stage is the emerging conflict between the nascent story of hope and the ingrained narrative that “nothing can change.” Observing the progress and also challenges inherent in changing health care and academic institutions, SNAC seems to operate from Margaret Mead’s message: “Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have.”

ABOUT SNAC: SNAC is implementing the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) landmark report, “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health” which recommends 80% of nurses have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or higher degree. Nurses with higher levels of education reduce medical errors and hospital readmissions. SNAC is contributing to the improvement of the area’s healthcare system by increasing access to a highly educated and skilled nursing workforce. The Patterson Foundation has supported SNAC since its inception.

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