Conflict Resolution in the Healthcare Setting

Conflict is one of the problems that arise in organizational settings where constant human exchanges occur. One such setting is a healthcare institution where conflict may occur between two or more nurses, between physicians and nurses, or between healthcare providers and patients (or their families). Discord is the outcome of experienced or apparent discrepancies in shared objectives, standards, philosophies, outlooks, beliefs, positions, or actions (Jerng et al., 2017).

Some of the causes of conflict in healthcare settings encompass rivalry among specialists, limited resources, reorganization, badly outlined roles, poor communication, and work-related stress. This paper describes an example of a conflict encountered in the healthcare setting, the four stages of conflict with respect to the chosen conflict and strategies for conflict resolution.

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Description of Unresolved Conflict

An unresolved conflict may be defined as a form of discord where a solution has not been found. Unresolved conflicts between healthcare workers can cause dire patient care upshots. The conflict occurred in a hospital setting in Miami between two nurses working on two different shifts. This type of conflict may be classified as an interpersonal conflict, which is a form of disagreement that happens between two or more individuals involving significant animosity and displeasure (Shah, 2017).

An interpersonal conflict was chosen because of its effect on healthcare. Healthcare workers who recognize each other’s responsibilities can work efficiently in harmony and provide quality patient care, which results in the attainment of the desired health outcomes. In addition, a recent study shows that workplace interpersonal conflict has adverse consequences on the healthcare system and its workers (Jerng et al., 2017).

Almost all healthcare workers have experienced discord. This problem is prevalent in operating rooms, intensive care units, as well as emergency rooms (Kim et al., 2017). Sadly, these are high-risk healthcare areas that necessitate intensive patient monitoring, inter-professional collaboration, and timely decision making. Interpersonal conflicts may have deleterious consequences for healthcare workers, for instance, getting in the way of team functioning and reducing employee satisfaction. Studies associate interpersonal conflicts with low-quality patient care, a high incidence of medical errors, increased staff burnout, and elevated costs of care (Jerng et al., 2017; Kim et al., 2017).

Details of What Happened

The conflict involved two nurses who were assigned to take care of a 13-year-old boy who was involved in a road accident and had wounds that required dressing twice a day. The night-time (A) and daytime (B) nurses were responsible for caring for the patient at night and during the day respectively. The conflict occurred one morning in the ward when nurse A was handing over the change-of-shift report to nurse B. Nurse B said that she hoped that nurse A had dressed the wounds properly because she did not wish to waste time rectifying her mistakes. She added that her work was doubled because of working with nurse A and that she could not wait to be assigned to work with a different nurse.

Nurse A was hurt by those statements and said that she did not like how nurse B left the place in a disordered state. However, she added that she had not complained about nurse B because she understood that no two people worked in exactly the same way. The nurses’ statements implied that they had tried to tolerate each other for a long time, which meant that the incident was an unresolved conflict.

The Four Stages of Conflict

The first stage of conflict is the latent phase where factors that can induce disagreements are present (Finkelman, 2016). The main forms of latent conflict entail competition for inadequate resources, a desire for autonomy, a difference of objectives, and arguments about roles. The two nurses have been in the latent stage of conflict until the day when the real conflict occurred. The factors that induced disagreements included the wound dressing style used by nurse A and the disorganization exhibited by nurse B.

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The second phase is the perceived conflict where one party views the other as a hindrance to their objectives. Misunderstandings concerning the true position of each party are likely to result in perceived conflict (Finkelman, 2016). Enhanced communication between the parties involved can resolve a perceived conflict. Nurse B believes that nurse A’s working style frustrates her efforts in the wards during the day.

The third stage of disagreement is felt conflict, which happens when a dispute is not only alleged but also experienced and recognized (Finkelman, 2016). In this example, nurse A knows that she is in serious disagreement with nurse B concerning their working styles. However, this knowledge does not affect A’s attitude towards B. One party only feels the impact of the clash following personalization of the conflict. Nurse A experiences the conflict when B points out that she is dissatisfied with A’s working style. However, before this incident, A was aware of B’s misgivings but did not let it affect their working relationship.

The fourth stage is manifest conflict, which is the point when two parties are involved in actions that trigger reactions from each other. The manifestation of conflict may be in the form of open hostility, indifference, sabotage, or withdrawal. The observed exchange between nurse A and B was a demonstration of manifest conflict. Nurse B’s actions prompted a heated response from nurse A.

Delegation, which refers to the process of assigning roles and responsibilities to another person, was an issue in the described conflict (Gopee & Galloway, 2017). There was a clash in the delegation of duties between the two nurses. Disparities between the expectations of nurse A and B led to the development of the conflict. Both nurses felt that the other party did not fulfill their assigned roles effectively.

Strategies for Conflict Resolution

Managing conflict is a time-consuming but essential duty of the nurse leader because conflicts have undesirable effects on throughput, optimism, and patient care. A “Leaders’ Third-Party Conflict Management Behaviors” (Shah, 2017, p. 45) would be the most suitable approach to solving interpersonal conflict because it is a neutral method. Three main approaches would be used: problem-solving, forcing, and avoiding.

Resolving the issue entails recognizing the concerns of both parties and finding an appropriate solution that tackles their disquiets. Forcing, conversely, involves the enactment of decisions by a leader to end the disagreement. Avoiding is the tactic where the leader stays away from the conflict. I would collaborate with the nurse leader to solve the problem by promoting dialogue between the conflicting parties to ensure that an amicable agreement is reached (Amestoy et al., 2014).

The best strategy would be problem-solving actions. This approach is chosen because permitting individuals to express their expectations and stances is likely to yield positive outcomes. This strategy demonstrates a leader’s willingness to listen to the concerns of his subordinates (Jit, Sharma, & Kawatra, 2016). Consequently, employees feel important, which minimizes the negative impact of the clash. Additionally, this move shows participatory leadership style where members of staff are permitted to take part in the decision-making process thereby curtailing stressful feelings (Sculli et al., 2015).

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Interpersonal conflicts may create unnecessary tension among coworkers and lead to adverse health outcomes for patients. Nursing leadership plays a vital role in maintaining harmony and ensuring smooth operations of the nursing department. An individual should deal with such conflicts in the future by involving a mediator and communicating effectively with the affected parties to reach an understanding.


Amestoy, S. C., Backes, V. M. S., Thofehrn, M. B., Martini, J. G., Meirelles, B. H. S., & Trindade, L. D. L. (2014). Conflict management: Challenges experienced by nurse-leaders in the hospital environment. Revista Gaucha de Enfermagem, 35(2), 79-85.

Finkelman, A. (2016). Leadership and management for nurses (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

Gopee, N., & Galloway, J. (2017). Leadership and management in healthcare (3rd ed.). London, UK: Sage.

Jerng, J. S., Huang, S. F., Liang, H. W., Chen, L. C., Lin, C. K., Huang, H. F.,… Sun, J. S. (2017). Workplace interpersonal conflicts among the healthcare workers: Retrospective exploration from the institutional incident reporting system of a university-affiliated medical center. PloS One, 12(2), e0171696. Web.

Jit, R., Sharma, C. S., & Kawatra, M. (2016). Servant leadership and conflict resolution: A qualitative study. International Journal of Conflict Management, 27(4), 591-612.

Kim, S., Bochatay, N., Relyea-Chew, A., Buttrick, E., Amdahl, C., Kim, L.,… Lee, Y. M. (2017). Individual, interpersonal, and organisational factors of healthcare conflict: A scoping review. Journal of Interprofessional Care, 31(3), 282-290.

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Sculli, G. L., Fore, A. M., Sine, D. M., Paull, D. E., Tschannen, D., Aebersold, M.,… Bagian, J. P. (2015). Effective followership: A standardized algorithm to resolve clinical conflicts and improve teamwork. Journal of Healthcare Risk Management, 35(1), 21-30.

Shah, M. (2017). Impact of interpersonal conflict in health care setting on patient care; The role of nursing leadership style on resolving the conflict. Nurse Care Open Access Journal, 2(2), 44-46.

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