The concept of readiness to change

J Adv Nurs. 2003 Apr;42(2):108-17. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2648.2003.02593.x.


Aim: Readiness is associated with change, yet there is little understanding of this construct. The purpose of this study was to examine readiness; its referents, associated factors and the resulting consequences.

Methods: In the course of nursing five clients living with multiple sclerosis over a 7-month period using a Reflective Practice Model, data were systematically gathered using open-ended and then more focused questioning. Data collected during 42 client encounters (28 face-to-face encounters; 14 telephone contacts) were analysed using Chinn and Kramer's concept analysis technique. Findings. The concept of readiness was inductively derived. Readiness is both a state and a process. Before clients can create change they need to become ready to change. A number of factors trigger readiness. These include when: (a) clients perceive that a health concern is not going to resolve, (b) a change in a client's physical condition takes on new significance, (c) clients feel better able to manage their stress, (d) clients have sufficient energy, (e) clients perceive that they have adequate support in undertaking change. When one or more of these factors is present clients become ready to consider change. The process of readiness involves recognizing the need to change, weighing the costs and benefits and, when benefits outweigh costs, planning for change. The desire to change and to take action determines clients' degree of readiness. When they experience a high degree of readiness they report less anger, less depression, and view their condition in a more positive light. In contrast, when they experience a low degree of readiness they report feeling depressed, afraid and vulnerable in the face of change.

Conclusion: Nursing has an important role to play in creating conditions to support change. To fulfil this role, nurses need to be able to assess readiness for change and the factors that enable it and then to intervene in ways that facilitate readiness.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Attitude*
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Intention
  • Male
  • Multiple Sclerosis / psychology*
  • Patient Compliance