WHY Fronts: Resistance

Published: 29 January 2020 WHY Fronts: Resistance

Who remembers their physics? Not me; I had to look it up again. I hated physics but it was and is an essential part of a radiographers training. 

I think I was the living example of resistance when it came to learning physics.

Some definitions are (for those of you like me who have buried it deep in your consciousness):

  • Resistance is the opposition that a substance offers to the flow of an electrical current. 
  • An electrical current flows when electrons move through a conductor, such as a metal wire.  The moving electrons can collide with the ions in the metal. This makes it more difficult for the current to flow and causes resistance.
  • Georg Ohm found that, at a constant temperature, the electrical current flowing through a fixed linear resistance is directly proportional to the voltage applied across it, and also inversely proportional to the resistance.

Feel more enlightened and eager to put this into practice? Nope, me neither. I have come to the sad realisation that I am not as much of a geek as I like to pretend.

However, there are other definitions of resistance (Cambridge Dictionary online);

  • A force that acts to stop the progress of something or make it slower (air/wind resistance)
  • The act of fighting something that is attacking you, or refusing to accept something. Which is like resistance to a disease process or to an idea (dare I mention Brexit).

Why would I write about resistance? As clinical radiographers, assistant practitioners and imaging managers we meet some form of resistance every day. 

The paediatric patient who is not so keen on being imaged, budget restraints, pleas for additional staffing or new/replacement equipment - all areas where I am sure you have met resistance and I am convinced you have many more examples.  

When you are looking to maintain and improve quality, you often meet resistance as it means there will be change.

How many of us have said those immortal words “don’t tell me what to do”? Even if it is only part of an inner monologue, change is never easy.

Using the Quality Standard for Imaging to base your changes on may help as there is an evidence base underpinning it; hopefully as evidence-based practitioners, we can be swayed by up to date evidence.
I read an article1 recently which looks at resistance to change, and it has some interesting points to make. 

Firstly, it says that no matter how wonderful the outcome may be, fear of moving into the unknown future creates stress and anxiety, even if the status quo is far from perfect. 

The article states that research2 has shown resistance is not only a psychological reaction but also a physiological reaction. To act in a new way requires more power from the brain.

When preparing for change, think about the resistance that there may be and prepare to answer the questions and queries around these. Some examples may be:

  • People who are highly invested in the current way of doing things
  • People who developed the current practice that will change
  • People who worry it will cause more work.

There are more examples, but I don’t want to bore you.

When you meet resistance, why not look at the root cause rather than the reaction.? Reactions may be complaining, not attending key meetings, not providing requested information or resources, or not adopting the change. 

Use the WHY to investigate and the WHAT to treat. ‘Why didn’t you?’, or ‘why can’t you?’ expressed with genuine concern can help, followed up with ‘what can I do to help you make time, understand or work this through with you?’

Finally, I would say make sure any change starts the right way; ensure that the process is explained, ensure queries and questions are welcomed, be open to suggestions made or explain clearly why they are not viable.
As professionals, we don’t want to stand in the way of progress (otherwise we would still have darkrooms in departments), but if you recognise yourself here why not think about how you express your concerns.  If you recognise others why not ask them what their concerns are we all might be surprised by the answers.

As always, you can contact me at:

Chris Woodgate
Quality Improvement Partner
The College of Radiographers/The Royal College of Radiologists