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Conflict in Nursing: Conflict Resolution in a Healthcare Setting

Introduction

Conflicts that occur within professional settings are commonplace, including the sphere of nursing. While there is a broad range of definitions of a conflict, it is characterized by either perceived or actual objection or contradiction in views, values, interests, or needs between two or several parties, which results in negative emotions. Since nursing is a collaborative profession, which implies continuous interactions between colleagues as well as between nurses and their patients. The interactions bring together individuals who have different views and may have an argument as a result of that, which can undermine relationships. This paper aims to evaluate a recurring conflict taking place among the nurses of a hospital setting in Miami, which has shown to had an adverse influence on the practice of nurses at the healthcare facility.

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Conflict Exploration

The recurring conflict was associated with scheduling shifts and the dissemination of responsibilities among nurses. There was a particular group of nurses who felt that they did the majority of the workload during their shifts while others had more free time and could rest, have lunch, and complete reports in time. The reports were essential to complete, but the group with the heavier workload did not have enough time for them and had to finish them at home. The two groups could never come to a consensus as to how they should divide their workload fairly because there were differences in employment and family status; for example, some of the nurses worked part-time and had to finish early while others had children and were allowed to leave in cases they needed to undertake their parenting duties. However, despite the fact that some nurses did most of the work, their pay did not increase, which exasperated their resentment.

The conflicts between nurses experiencing disparities in their workload were getting worse despite the attempts of the management to resolve them. The nurses doing most of the work often said that “other nurses did not deserve to get paid as much as them because they contributed nothing to the care delivery.” Because of the opposition between the two groups of nurses, it was complicated for nursing managers to assign responsibilities because the ones receiving more tasks were in the ‘opposition.’ However, when the group of nurses that did less during their shifts was assigned more tasks, they met the change unfavorably, stating that their primary employment responsibilities did not imply a workload increase without the salary is increased. The recurring conflicts significantly undermined the work of the nurses and their care for patients because there was limited collaboration due to the opposition between two groups of nurses. The conflict had to be resolved as soon as possible because patient satisfaction levels were declining while the nurses who were heavily loaded with work were considering leaving the hospital, which could have led to potential shortages in personnel.

Stages of Conflict

The process of conflict is complicated, and there are four stages that describe what is happening between the parties at different stages of the process. The latent stage implies that the parties involved do not realize that there is a conflict to be taken place (Pender, Garcia, Medina, & Euwema, 2019). In regards to the conflict with nurses, the latent conflict took place when the responsibilities were initially assigned unequally. The perceived conflict characterizes the stage associated with one or all parties becoming aware that an argument may be taking place. This happened when after some time, the nurses began realizing that their work was not divided equally. At the felt stage, the conflict exasperates to the extent that the parties involved in it experience stress and anxiety. The nurses were under intense levels of pressure because they were continually arguing but still had to fulfill their responsibilities and care for patients. In the manifest stage, the conflict is being noticed and discussed, which exasperates the problem even more. The conflict between nurses described above is at the manifest stage, which means that it is open and can be observed not only by those involved in it but also by parties outside the conflict. The post-conflict phase describes what happens after the conflict, which leads to the ultimate resolution. The conflict between nurses has not reached the final stage yet, which means that there should be a consensus reached between the opposing groups of nurses.

Conflict Resolution Strategy

Resolving the recurring conflict is a complicated task because nurses may often experience opposition and harbor negative emotions. However, the process of conflict resolution is important because it presents an opportunity for change and growth in a work environment, with a great potential for having a positive outcome. On an individual level, conflict resolution is imperative for facilitating personal achievement among nurses. The best strategy for conflict resolution among nurses is facilitating collaboration between nurses. A nursing manager can initiate group meetings with all nurses for them to share their different opinions and explain why they feel particular emotions. A collaborative approach toward conflict resolution implies that parties perceiving the opposite perspectives communicate with each other constructively in search of a solution (Leever et al., 2010). Improving collaboration and communication between nurses can improve their morale and subsequently increase the satisfaction of patients with the quality of care (Leever et al., 2010). Poor communication was among the reasons for the conflict between professionals, and its lack in the process of resolution may have potentially adverse consequences for the care process.

The group meetings aimed at improving collaborative and communicative efforts between nurses are intended to facilitate mutual respect, which is imperative for overcoming the identified challenge. The nurses should communicate to understand each other’s roles and see the complex relationships between them from the standpoint of professional trust (Ghiyascandian, Zakerimoghadam, & Peyravi, 2015). The communication should ultimately lead to a compromise, which is an intermediate stage that reflects the equal concern of parties for the interests of each other. The role of a nursing manager in the process of enhancing communication and collaboration implies mediation. A mediator will facilitate the development of mutual trust between the parties of the conflict and guide them to search for common interests. It is expected that the disputants would reach a consensus, which means that mediation is a relationship-oriented process that aims to prevent the exasperation of conflict and bring mutual understanding between the participants of the conflict (Cheng, 2015). As facilitators of professional communication, nursing managers will have to create an environment in which the perspectives of the conflicting parties will be heard, understood, and used for reaching a solution.

Collaborating with a nurse leader to reach a consensus on the best strategy is necessary to have an understanding of how the conflict should be managed. It is important to present the nurse leader with the list of potentially positive outcomes of the proposed resolution strategy while also pointing out the challenges. For example, on the one hand, the group meetings will facilitate increased communication between nurses who may not have spoken to one another directly because of resentment. On the other hand, the meetings will include some arguments between the nurses because they would be put face-to-face, and negative emotions would come out. The nurse leader will be deciding as to whether the group meetings will take place as well as with which regularity. It is also expected that the nurse leader will speak to each nurse individually to ensure that they can share their perspectives and discuss potential adjustments in their pay and workload to increase their satisfaction with work as well as decrease the likelihood of nurses’ turnover. Therefore, both individual and group methods of conflict resolution can be applied to foster collaboration but also ensure mutual understanding between nursing leaders and their subordinates.

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Conclusion

The conflict between nurses showed that the lack of communication and collaboration could lead to significant misunderstandings and disputes between nurses. The fact that responsibilities were assigned unequally led to distrust and resentment and nurses could not manage the situation by themselves because their emotions were preventing them from having constructive conversations and coming to a common conclusion. Because of this, the involvement of nursing leaders would be needed to facilitate mediation within the process of conflict resolution. Understanding the perspectives of each group was imperative because it could offer a multi-dimensional look at the problem, the resolution of which relies on communication and collaboration.

References

Cheng, F. (2015). Mediation skills for conflict resolution in nursing education. Nurse Education in Practice, 15, 310-313.

Ghiyasvandian, S., Zakerimoghadam, M., & Peyravi, H. (2014). Nurse as a facilitator to professional communication: a qualitative study. Global Journal of Health Science, 7(2), 294-303.

Leever, A., Hulst, M., Berendsen, A., Boendemaker, P., Roodenburg, J., & Pols, J. (2010). Conflicts and conflict management in the collaboration between nurses and physicians – a qualitative study. Journal of Interprofessional Care, 24(6), 612-624.

Pender, E., Garcia, A., Medina, F., & Euwema, M. (2019). Mediation in collective labor conflicts. Industrial Relations & Conflict Management. Springer.

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