The Fall 2019 session of The School for Change Agents will start on November 4. I am excited to say this re-run will feature content provided by NHS Horizons' partner organizations in North America, including Montefiore Health System in New York and the Change Foundation in Canada. 

Currently, I am on sabbatical with the Horizons team from the Department of Radiology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in the US. 

For me, the third time was the charm: after two unsuccessful attempts to participate in the live 2018 and 2019 spring School for Change Agents in my native USA, I finally completed the 2019 School curriculum last month, whilst in the UK.

I've detailed below some of the main obstacles I experienced during my two unsuccessful attempts to complete School - and how I overcame them.  I hope this inspires others to not wait for sabbatical or to travel 3,539 miles (like me) before becoming change agents.

MYTH 1: School is meant to be attended live.  Between my clinical, teaching and research responsibilities at an urban tertiary care academic medical center, I was almost never free for the live sessions of School. I thought watching the sessions would feel stale and passive. 

However, it is irrelevant that the course aired months earlier. 

The lectures are engaging and thought-provoking, bridging concepts and practices across education, psychology, public policy and health care. I took screen shots of key concepts and replayed segments to transcribe quotes. 

In fact, eight out of 10 participants watched asynchronously (meaning they watched the recording rather than the live webinar) during the spring/summer 2019 run of School. Despite the absence of the live sessions, I felt energized and connected with a larger, international, group of like-minded individuals.

MYTH 2: I don’t have an hour to watch another lecture – my day is already overbooked. True, my days are packed with early lectures, biopsies, an ever-replenishing radiology work-list and finally rushing home to see my husband and 6-year-old. 

However, one of the best antidotes to burnout is to invest in ourselves. Opening my mind to a new way of seeing possibilities and interpreting prior failures through school was an investment in my wellbeing. 

For this new session, each original hour long School webinar has been curated into a range of 3 to 10 minute high-impact segments. Who doesn’t have time to watch a 10-minute video three times a week? (Even if it is at 10:30 pm after my daughter is in bed, my work is finally finished and Hanna-time usually starts).

MYTH 3: School is only applicable to the NHS – it won’t be as relevant to me in the US.  As they say on this side of the pond, rubbish! The School for Change Agents applies to anyone passionate about improvement and change, wherever you live, whatever your profession or position; after all, people are people. 

Each week is filled with powerful content on understanding internal and external sources of resistance to change and alternative methods to initiate change. I felt mildly stunned the first time I heard Helen describe the Noble Purpose Paradox: it summarized so perfectly the frustration I felt in trying to execute change in my hospital, offered a perspective I had not considered, and generated new ideas on how to approach change. 

School is particularly powerful for those with little or no formal leadership. Skills learned through the course are as applicable to my volunteer work at mosque as they are to my paid academic medicine work. Bonus: the lecture on 10 December will include case studies from Canada and the United States on change agency including “What matters to you."

MYTH 4: School only discusses theory rather than offering practical approaches. School draws on constructs from business, humanities, and social science to explain why we encounter resistance to change, within ourselves and within organizations. It then builds on those constructs to provide alternative approaches to successfully executing change in teams across organizational and geographical boundaries. 

For me, the power of School was that it brought into focus multiple options to approach change where I previously had only seen one; this was accomplished by teaching new skills and providing an alternative perspective. It connected me to other like-minded individuals around the globe who have experienced similar frustrations and road blocks and provides a forum to learn from their approaches and successes. In doing so it gave me energy, hope and confidence.

Sign up for The School for Change Agents today!