Conflict Resolution in Nursing: Strategies

Conflict management is a crucial skill that must be mastered by a graduate student during their internship. As nurses have to work side by side with health care professionals, such interdependent work roles contribute to conflict. Therefore, a contemporary nurse should be able to distinguish among conflict types and realize the ways of managing conflicts. The present paper describes one of my experiences with an issue during my internship at Miami Hospital and the way the dispute was resolved. Moreover, the paper briefly observes scholarly articles to provide a theory concerning the matter.

One of the main recurring conflicts I experienced during my internship was with physicians. Before stepping into my nursing practice, I thought that the main source of conflict would be the nursing staff, as they would bully me and make me feel uncomfortable and helpless. As it turned out, the majority of nurses were friendly, understanding and helpful, which cannot be said about doctors. Some of them would not want nursing students to help in their patients care, while most of the physicians would give interns a cold look and pass by as if we did not exist. This would happen every time even when we tried to address them with questions, reports, or suggestions.

The lack of experience and self-efficacy would not let most of the interns discuss this issue with nurse leaders or doctors themselves, therefore, most of the nursing students ignored the matter and the problem remained unresolved. As the present paper shows, more practical ways of conflict management are to be learned to become a professional.

Conflict Types and Stages

During their practice, nurses come across numerous conflicts that arise from various sources. Scholars describe nurses’ work conflicts are mainly due to incompatible goals and recurrent, normative clash (Moreland & Apker, 2015). However unique the disputes may appear, they fall into one of the three categories: personal, interpersonal, or intergroup conflicts (Higazee, 2015). Personal is the type of strives that happens inside one individual. Interpersonal is a conflict between two or more individuals. Correspondingly, the third type of rivals is between groups or departments.

Conflicts within a nursing unit are often interpersonal, as individuals have unresolved disagreements with others that interfere with workflow and unit harmony. However, as Higazee (2015) points out, the main type of conflict, as reported by both sides, is the intergroup conflict between physicians and nurses. The case described in the introduction falls into this category and explains my rationale for selecting the exact issue. The problem is frequent and can considerably affect patients’ outcomes; hence, there is a need to reflect upon the subject.

It is also beneficial to know the stages of conflicts and relate them to the case described in the paper. There are four phases of conflict: the latent stage, the perceived stage, the felt stage, and the manifest stage. During the latent stage, the participants do not know about the existence of the conflict yet, but it is already underway. As related to the case examined in the paper, I had not yet known about the conflict between the nurses and physicians in the hospital before I enrolled in my internship, but it had been already there. During the perceived period, the participants begin to understand that conflict is afoot, which happened during the third day of my work in the hospital.

The third stage continued throughout my internship, as I felt stress and anxiety every day, but could not resolve the issue, as I was too afraid and uncomfortable. The fourth stage, the manifest, never happened for most of the nursing students, as the tension was too high. As Moreland and Apker (2014) point out, the most frequent source of conflicts in nursing is delegation; however, this case was not due to the issue. In short, while the issue described in the introduction is typical, the conflict it depicts does not go through the four stages for the majority of students.

Strategies of Conflict Management

There are five strategies for dealing with conflict: dominating, integrating, obliging, compromising, and avoiding (Chan, Sit, & Lau, 2014). Dominating is using authority to dictate a point of view, which is especially relevant when addressing emergencies, as there is always no time to use any other tactics. Obliging, or giving in, is the opposite of competition and is used when one person is too afraid to address the issue with another staff member and agrees with the opponent’s point of view. Avoiding people one has conflicts with until more information is available can also be a rational approach. Compromising is trading something for something in return, so both parties get partially satisfied with the outcome. Integrating, or collaborating, is an approach that encourages identification of areas of agreement and disagreement, and selection of a solution to the problem that incorporates both parties’ perspectives. In short, while all the strategies have their ways of use, the most efficient one, according to definitions, is collaborating, as it is a win-win situation.

Collaborating with CNL

In the search for a universal way of conflict management, scholars tend to agree on the matter, that collaboration is the closest to an ideal. Chen et al. (2014) state that integrating is “the preferred conflict management style within the nursing profession regardless of culture and seniority of the individual” (p. 937). Moreland and Apker (2015) also suggest “to collaborate with staff nurses and middle managers to adopt a systemwide culture more supportive of conflict discussion” (p. 8). In brief, it is best to collaborate with peers to address the question of conflict solving.

In response to the need of the leaders that would provide such collaborations, the clinical nurse leader (CNL) position was created (Bender, Connely, & Brown, 2013). Hence, when facing the situation described in the introduction, it would be wise to collaborate with a nurse leader. CNLs can control the process and ensure everyone involved behaves respectfully, therefore Bender et al. (2013) advise inexperienced nurses create supportive groups under CNL’s supervision and work out a negotiation plan to reconcile with the members of the other department. In summary, collaboration is the most efficient way of addressing conflicts and can be particularly beneficial if done with a CNL.


Considering the knowledge I received while working on the present paper, I would attend to the case described in the introduction in a completely different manner. Instead of avoiding this intergroup conflict and giving in after a long period of feeling anxious, I would address our CNL and organized a collaborating group of nursing students around him. In conclusion, the silent strive I experienced during my internship is not a unique issue; therefore, conflict management skills are crucial for providing the best outcomes for the patients.


Bender, M., Connely, C., & Brown, C. (2013). Interdisciplinary collaboration: The role of the clinical nurse leader. Journal of Nursing Management, 21(1), 165-174. Web.

Chan, J., Sit, E., & Lau, W. (2014). Conflict management styles, emotional intelligence and implicit theories of personality of nursing students: A cross-sectional study. Nurse Education Today, 34(6), 934-939. Web.

Higazee, M. (2015). Types and levels of conflicts experienced by nurses in the hospital settings. Health Science Journal, 9(6), 1-6.

Moreland, J., & Apker, J. (2015). Conflict and stress in hospital nursing: Improving communicative responses to enduring professional challenges. Health Communication, 31(7), 815-823. Web.

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NursingBird. "Conflict Resolution in Nursing: Strategies." December 17, 2021.