Conflict Resolution in Professional Nurse Activity


The activities of professional nurses require not only high professionalism and compliance with all necessary rules but also the ability to find the right approach to a patient. In the practice of many medical workers, conflicts caused by different reasons occur quite often. If it happens, it means that there are some problems with the work of the team. The task of the leader is not only to regulate the general order of medical care but also to control the activities of nurses, in particular, how they observe all moral and ethical norms in the process of communication and behavior.

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During my practice, I witnessed one conflict that occurred between a nurse in my department and her patient. Disagreements led to the fact that the person wrote a complaint to the chief doctor and demanded to punish the employee, who, in his opinion, behaved incorrectly. In the course of activities, it is important to avoid conflicts that not only lead to serious consequences and the involvement of management but also negatively affect the reputation of a nurse.

Observation of the Conflict

The misunderstanding that occurred between the employee and the patient was caused by the person’s claim to the quality of the services rendered to him. This patient was in the traumatology department as he had undergone surgery to restore a broken leg. According to him, the nurse who assisted him demonstrated insufficient attention to his needs was indifferent to the requests, and did not show interest in the patient’s condition. The conflict remained unresolved as both sides did not reach an agreement and a consensus on this situation.

Details of the Conflict

The complaint from the patient was addressed to the chief doctor of the hospital. According to the 35-year-old man, the nurse, who was responsible for his recovery, did not perform her professional duties well enough. In particular, when the man asked her about any service, she behaved reluctantly and showed her indifference and disinterest in his needs. Moreover, according to the patient, the woman communicated roughly, she allegedly responded to the complaints rudely and often refused to perform assistance, referring to her constant working fatigue.

According to the nurse, who was the second participant of the conflict, the patient’s complaint was unreasonable since all the events described by him were false. The woman claimed that she had fulfilled all the man’s requests in a timely. She said that she had taken part in his recovery after the operation, and communicated with him in the correct form, not permitting herself to be rude. This interpersonal communication conflict could have had severe consequences for the reputation of the medical institution if the chief doctor of the hospital and the senior nurse of the department had not paid proper attention to the patient and had not taken measures to resolve the conflict situation.

The outcome of the Conflict

The management of the hospital decided to reprimand the nurse for non-compliance with her professional duties and the violation of an ethical code of conduct for the employees of health care. The conflict remained unresolved as both sides did not change their opinions and did not come to a peaceful solution to the problem. Perhaps, this interpersonal conflict is an example of not only the unskilled work of the nurse but also the lack of the team leader’s participation in the situation. If the medical personnel had been motivated to achieve a high and quality performance of their duties, this misunderstanding probably would not have arisen. Neither of the participants of the conflict acknowledged their injustice, and it is another proof of the subjectivity of both sides’ opinions.

Stages of the Conflict

According to Finkelman (2015), there are four main steps of the conflict: latent conflict, perceive conflict, felt conflict, and manifest conflict. As a rule, in serious disagreement, it is possible to notice the development of all these four stages. Thus, the first phase is characterized by the manifestation of conditions that create the possibility for a conflict situation. In the second stage, the disagreement between the two sides becomes evident, which is seen due to a change in the relationship between participants and the emergence of tense situations. During the third phase, there are usually attempts to resolve a conflict, ways to find a compromise, and solve a problem. At the last stage, active actions of the parties are carried out, which are embodied in certain forms of behavior, and it can be both controlled ways and aggressive actions. Quite often in the last phase, a third party is involved as an independent and competent assistant in resolving the problem that arose (Barsky, 2016).

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Relation of the Stages to the Described Conflict

As for the relation of the presented stages of conflict to the situation that I faced in the hospital, almost all of them took place. The latent conflict was manifested in the emergence of conditions for the problem when the patient began to resent nursing care. At the second stage, the aggravation was seen, when the man showed his indignation to the woman and demanded a change in a treatment regimen. The felt conflict did not take place since neither side decided to resolve the issue at the local level and negotiate. Then, the patient turned to the chief doctor, trying to solve the problem and achieve high-quality service, which indicates the fourth stage.

Delegation in the Context of the Conflict

Delegation is always a two-way process, which concerns not only the leader but also subordinates. Perhaps, the method of trust of authorities was not a problem in the conflict. If for example, a team leader had intervened in time and exerted significant influence on the nurse, the patient would not likely have turned to the chief doctor with a complaint. It allows saying that the senior nurse did not demonstrate proper attention to the work of her employees and did not participate in the process of resolving conflict situations during the workflow process. Passivity and the fear of consequences cannot affect a positive atmosphere in the team (Moreland & Apker, 2016). The role of leaders should be evident as the control over the work of colleagues is an integral condition of their competence and professionalism.

Strategies for Conflict Resolution

Not all conflict resolution strategies could be useful to resolve the situation that arose in the hospital. For example, rivalry as a method of avoiding a problem cannot be considered a successful technique in that situation. As Barsky (2016) notes, the imposition of a personal position by one side of the conflict to the other would not lead to the resolution of the issue but would just exacerbate the problem. Neither the patient nor the nurse was ready to concede, which allows saying that it was impossible to use the method of adaptation to the situation. Accordingly, avoiding the problem also could not be an efficient technique since the nurse, to whom the patient expressed his claims, was unable to force him to seek help from other employees.

Perhaps, the most optimal solution would be a compromise method, when both sides would listen to each other and come to a common opinion without the manifestation of hostility. Willingness to consider the opponent’s claims justified and logical is the quality of a professional employee who can competently assess the situation and not give in to emotions (Twigg & McCullough, 2014). A compromise would have been useful if both parties had come to an agreement and had been satisfied with the decision. For example, the nurse’s attempts to heed the requests of the man might have helped to avoid the consequences that followed.

Also, the participation of the leader in the problem would have contributed to achieving a more positive outcome of the conflict. If the senior nurse had got involved in the issue timely and influenced her colleague, the patient would probably have felt a change in attitude towards himself. According to Moreland and Apker (2016), the role of the leader is one of the key positions in case of conflict situations because his or her influence on the collective is often justified and authoritative. The desire to achieve good working results and provide all patients with necessary care is the natural desire of an experienced manager. The participation of the leader could have excluded the reprimand and stopped the man from filing a complaint thereby inflicting damage on the reputation of the hospital.

Thus, in nursing work, it is important to avoid possible conflicts caused by unprofessional activities that may affect the further career of an employee. Among the methods that could have helped to get away, a possible conflict is a compromise, as well as the participation of the leader to resolve the problem and motivate the nurse to do a good job. Timely measures taken to avoid the conflict could have prevented the patient from the writing of his complaint and thereby preserved the reputation of the traumatology department and the entire hospital untainted.


Barsky, A. E. (2016). Conflict resolution for the helping professions: Negotiation, mediation, advocacy, facilitation, and restorative justice (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

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Finkelman, A. (2015). Leadership and management for nurses: Core competencies for quality care (3rd ed.). London, UK: Pearson.

Moreland, J. J., & Apker, J. (2016). Conflict and stress in hospital nursing: Improving communicative responses to enduring professional challenges. Health Communication, 31(7), 815-823.

Twigg, D., & McCullough, K. (2014). Nurse retention: A review of strategies to create and enhance positive practice environments in clinical settings. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 51(1), 85-92.

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