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Q: We are beginning to implement an evidence-based practice in our transitional living program, and we’re having some resistance from staff. How should we handle this?
A: Introducing an evidence-based practice can be tricky. Staff may feel uncomfortable with change, or they may think that management is discounting all the good work they’ve done in the past. There are a number of things you can do to bring them along for the ride, rather than imposing the new system on them.
“Before introducing a model in its entirety to staff, it helps to highlight the things they are already doing successfully and then tying it into that model,” says Shemeka Frazier-Sorrells, program director of Transitionz, a transitional living program for runaway and homeless youth run by CHRIS Kids, a social service agency in Atlanta, GA. Transitionz has been using the evidence-based Transition to Independence Process, called TIP, for 6 months.
Sarah Ziegler, performance and quality improvement director at CHRIS Kids, also recommends translating the evidence-based approach into laypersons’ language.
“Terms that only a clinician would understand can be alienating to staff, families and youth,” she says. “We start talking about it in very simple terms, and then we can build upon it with philosophy and the technical aspects of these approaches.”
Zeigler says to emphasize the specific ways the new approach will strengthen staff’s interactions with youth. “When staff are empowered with many ways to develop, strengthen and engage youth, it really leads to better outcomes and more job satisfaction,” she says.
Seeing is believing, so once you start putting the model in place, make sure to point out the ways it is improving outcomes for youth.
“When the staff is able to see changes happening more quickly in the youth, they get a greater sense of accomplishment because they are helping the young people achieve goals,” Frazier-Sorrells says.