Constructive Conflict Resolution in Health Care


The contentious potential of the health care industry is manifested at all levels of the life of the society. Conflict interaction and conflict resolution in health care are the subjects of numerous studies in different scientific areas (Patton, 2014). Conflicts in the health care system as well as in the corporate environment take place not only within a group of professional health workers, but they are also projected beyond the relations with patients. In this regard, it is necessary to create effective conflict management techniques and utilize effective strategies for health care institutions to be able to predict, identify, reduce, and resolve conflicts to achieve better nursing and patient outcomes.

Description of Conflict

During my practice in the South Miami hospital, I was able to observe a recurring conflict between the charge nurse (Mrs. J. M.) and the auxiliary nurse (Ms. D. B.). Their names have been omitted for the ethical matter. The conflict happened on a repetitive basis even though the setting was a bit different every time. One of the latest reasons for conflict was a situation when the charge nurse assigned tasks to Ms. D. B. while she was preoccupied with other activities. Ms. D. B. was responsible for furnishing care for three patients that required immediate nursing interventions and attention and Mrs. J. M. requested that the nurse would prepare the room for the new admission (Mr. N. A.).

The patient was to be transferred from the emergency department, which implied that the patient needed the nurse to take immediate care of him. This kind of situation has happened several times already, which has caused a confrontation between the two workers. The CN justified her decision by claiming that the hospital was experiencing a nursing staff shortage, and she could not assign the duties to other members of the staff. Besides, according to her words, she was not liable for performing the tasks she assigned to Ms. D. B.

An intrapersonal conflict is present. Ms. D. B. was preoccupied with many obligations at the same time (Patton, 2014). Her tasks implied that she would meet several expectations simultaneously and immediately. Thus, she was expecting both an individual and a role conflict.

The nurse was overwhelmed with the tasks and was incapable of furnishing care for the patient from the emergency department. It should be noted that the charge nurse delegated the tasks improperly while she had to keep track of the assignments that Ms. D. B. was already performing (Rigolosi, 2012). The nurse was supposed to delegate tasks to the qualified and competent staff member that could be held accountable for furnishing care to the patient. Moreover, it was the CN’s role to provide supervision for Ms. D. B.

Stages of Conflict

There are four stages of the conflict, which are latent, perceived, felt, and manifest (Finkelman, 2012). Each stage indicates the necessity of intervention and conflict regulation while ineffective conflict management strategies and practices may lead to poor patient outcomes due to stress, burnout, and negative perceptions experienced by the nursing staff, which leads to low job satisfaction. During the latent stage, the participants of the conflict may be unaware of it. However, this is one of the most important stages while it is easier to prevent or eliminate the conflict in the very beginning when there are not many parties and feelings involved. Unfortunately, I cannot tell how the conflict in the hospital has passed the latent stage as I did not have my practice there at that time.

The second stage of the conflict is the perceived conflict. It is related to a situation when the employees already realize that a conflict is present (Finkelman, 2012). The conflict passed to the second stage when the nurse contacted the CN to gain an understanding of why she was delegated inappropriate and inadequate tasks. The nurse did not contact the senior management about the issue as the CN explained that she had not considered the overload Ms. D. B. was having at that time.

The third stage is the felt conflict when the employees go upfront about the existing issue (Finkelman, 2012). The conflict passed to the third stage when the same situation happened again, and Ms. D. B. turned to the senior management to inform them about the problem, which caused much discontent and anger of the CN. She started arguing that it was her duty to assign tasks while other team members were accountable for furnishing care to the patients. The conflict has not yet passed to the fourth stage, which is the manifest conflict; however, it is somewhere in-between the third and the fourth stage. The CN ignores the policy, but she tries to turn the conflict into a constructive one.

It is worth mentioning that the delegation process was part of the issue. The CN may assign duties of the nursing process; however, he or she is responsible for following the delegation guidelines that include such stages as determining the task, choosing the appropriate delegate, reporting the assignment, achieving accord, and supervising the performance (Johansen, 2012). However, Mrs. J. M. did not reach an agreement with the nurse and did not provide supervision. Subsequently, the high nurse turnover is not the only problem in the hospital, and the delegation processes should be improved despite the high workload in the health care institution.

Strategies for Conflict Resolution

Several different strategies can be employed when dealing with conflicts. The choice of the strategy depends on a particular situation and the employees. Also, it depends on the manager’s abilities and skills in conflict regulation. One of the strategies is competition when a party requires obedience notwithstanding the cost to the subordinates. It is not advisable to utilize this strategy while it will lead to the emanation of the conflict rather than to its resolution (Dinkin, Filner, & Maxwell, 2012).

Another strategy is accommodation, which is less coercive than the first one; however, the application of this approach implies that one of the sides will have to experience emotional distress allowing the other side to set his or her guidelines. If the manager wants to decrease the emotional distress in the subordinate, he or she can employ a smoothing technique and influence the emotional perceptions of the parties involved. However, neither smoothing nor accommodation will allow eliminating the conflict while not only the emotional component is crucial – the CN neglected the policy of the hospital.

Another strategy is compromising that implies that both sides have to give up on their position, which will not be efficient in the case of Mrs. J. M. and Ms. D. B (Johansen, 2012). It should be noted that collaboration strategy will be the most effective one in the current conflict while, as mentioned earlier, the charge nurse is ready to turn the conflict in the constructive direction; thus, she is ready to cooperate to enhance the working atmosphere in the hospital and achieve better health care result.

In general, collaboration with a nurse leader is essential to promote successful conflict resolution (Rigolosi, 2012). Cooperation involves the involvement of all the interest parties in a mutual exchange of ideas, perceptions, and thoughts on regulating the conflict (Dinkin et al., 2012). It is necessary to establish joint goals and focus on the problem resolution regardless of the difference in power between the nurse and CN.

The application of the collaboration strategy will allow setting aside the superior-subordinate perceptions and promote mutual respect. Most importantly, such a strategy enables empowering nurses to achieve better outcomes through shared responsibility. Such methods as third-party consultation, behavior change, and responsibility charting are quite drastic but applicable if the collaboration becomes stagnant (Rigolosi, 2012). The collaboration strategy is beneficial in terms of the long term as well and contributes to the improvement of the corporate culture, equitability of the auxiliary staff, and communication within the health care institution.


Constructive conflict resolution is only possible in the process of effective communication between the conflicting parties. The idea that a conflict in the workplace can always be avoided is incorrect. The job of a nurse implies a large amount of work, high tension, and frequent stressful work setting; consequently, conflicts cannot be avoided, but they can be effectively eliminated at the latent stage, or the effective strategies can be applied to the resolution of it.

The study of concepts on the role and content of conflict, strategies of conflict behavior, and the analysis of the conflict that took place in a real working environment will help me to deal effectively with the emerging conflicts in my practice. One of the main conclusions is that the training of health care workers in constructive conflict resolution and effective behavior in conflict situations is essential for the effective functioning of the organization and a healthy working environment. It is crucial to boost the psychological culture of the employees so that they will perform their professional activities effectively.


Dinkin, S., Filner, B., & Maxwell, L. (2012). The exchange strategy for managing conflict in healthcare. New York, NY: McGraw Hill Professional.

Finkelman, A. (2012). Leadership and management for nurses. New York, NY: Pearson.

Johansen, M. (2012). Keeping the peace. Nursing Management, 43(2), 50-54.

Patton, C. (2014). Conflict in health care: A literature review. The Internet Journal of Healthcare Administration, 9(1), 1-11. Web.

Rigolosi, E. (2012). Management and leadership in nursing and health care. New York, NY: Springer.

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