Original Study| Volume 11, ISSUE 7, P511-518, September 2010

The Complexity of Implementing Culture Change Practices in Nursing Homes


      The culture change (CC) movement aims to transform the traditional nursing home (NH) that is institutional in design with hierarchical management structure into a homelike environment that empowers residents and frontline staff. This study examines differences in adoption of CC practices according to a NH's self-reported extent of CC implementation and its duration of CC adoption. Furthermore, it examines differences in adoption by whether a CC practice is considered less versus more complex, using complexity theory as the theoretical framework for this classification.

      Design and Methods

      Using data from a 2007 Commonwealth-funded study, we analyzed a national sample of 291 US nursing homes that identified as being “for the most part” or “completely” CC facilities for “1 to 3 years” or “3+ years.” Also, using a complexity theory framework, we ranked 16 practices commonly associated with CC as low, moderately, or highly complex based on level of agreement needed to actuate the process (number of parties involved) and the certainty of intended outcomes. We then examined the prevalence of CC-associated practices in relation to their complexity and the extent and duration of a NH's CC adoption.


      We found practices ranked as less complex were implemented more frequently in NHs with both shorter and longer durations of CC adoption. However, more complex CC practices were more prevalent among NHs reporting “complete” adoption for 3+ years versus 1 to 3 years. This was not observed in NHs reporting having CC “for the most part.”


      Less complex practices may be more economical and easier to implement. These early successes may result in sufficient momentum so that more complex change can follow. A nursing home that more completely embraces the culture change movement may be more likely to attempt these complex changes.


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