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It’s up to you which direction your nursing goes

Sometimes obstacles get in your way, but as Bethann Siviter knows, this gives nurses the chance to innovate to create a positive difference.

Sometimes obstacles get in your way, but as Bethann Siviter knows, this gives nurses the chance to innovate to create a positive difference

My maths-genius friend Mike and I were discussing Chaos Theory: high level maths stuff that scares me, but he accurately assured me of its relevancy to life. He explained that maths proves certain things will happen to you, your workload and your team.

Chaos theory says a system only remains stable when things are consistently correct. Over time, small deviations build up and grow, making the system increasingly unstable. This is also called the butterfly effect that gently beating butterfly wings in one place add up to make a tornado in another. We can trust that failing to address problematic changes makes them grow.

For us as nurses,

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Sometimes obstacles get in your way, but as Bethann Siviter knows, this gives nurses the chance to innovate to create a positive difference

My maths-genius friend Mike and I were discussing Chaos Theory: high level maths stuff that scares me, but he accurately assured me of its relevancy to life. He explained that maths proves certain things will happen – to you, your workload and your team.

Chaos theory says a system only remains stable when things are consistently correct. Over time, small deviations build up and grow, making the system increasingly unstable. This is also called the “butterfly effect” – that gently beating butterfly wings in one place add up to make a tornado in another. We can trust that failing to address problematic changes makes them grow.


The butterfly effect can apply to nursing practice. 
Picture: iStock

For us as nurses, this means putting time and energy we perhaps don’t feel we have into working better together, communicating our concerns, reflecting on our practice and addressing our stress. If we don’t periodically reset our care to “factory defaults” we are heading for failure.

We must also recognise and challenge disruptions impacting our care and the lives of those we care for. Management must not only report obstacles, but provide appraisals, iron out issues in clinical supervision, help us be honest about obstacles and concerns, and support us to do things correctly.

Slippery path

All this gives us the chance to innovate, and use our knowledge and skills in positive ways. Although even a small negative change can make things go all awry, a small positive change has the power to send things in the right direction. It’s up to you which direction your nursing goes. The only thing you can’t do is pretend it’s all fine when it’s not, because blindly carrying on is the path to failure.

Use communication, insight and reflection as well as your ingenuity to solve the smallest problems, and you prevent the biggest problems from forming. If you want I can show you the maths. But trust me, as sciences go I much prefer nursing to numbers. 

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