In any environment involving collaboration and communication between individuals, there is a likelihood of conflicts happening. Be it poor working conditions, a low level of someone’s responsibility, or personal misunderstandings, disputes occur rather frequently in all kinds of professions. In the healthcare environment, conflicts are not a rare occasion due to several factors. First of all, there is a variety of stakeholders, each having different interests and pursuing various goals.
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Doctors and patients care about patients’ timely recovery, the administration pays attention to costs and days of stay, whereas patients are concerned with their personal interests to be considered. Secondly, the approaches used by these stakeholders may differ depending on the experience or divergences in worldviews. In any case, it is essential to locate the cause of conflict and search a resolution to it since by doing so timely, hospital employees will be able to avoid unnecessary complications or even charges. The paper presents an overview of a conflict situation that I observed at work, along with due attention to stages of conflict and strategies for conflict resolution.
Description of an Unresolved Conflict and Its Type
Recently, there was a conflict at my unit that made all of our team members reconsider the attitude to work and our clients. Such occasions are quite rare at our hospital, so I was quite surprised to find out that my colleague could allow such a situation in the first place. However, we all learned a valuable lesson, and the conflict served as an opportunity to work together on its resolution.
It all happened last Monday during the shift change time. The head nurse of the department asked one of the team members, G., to tend to a patient who had just arrived, though it was the time for G. to leave. What is more, the head nurse asked G. to fill out the form for the patient, although it was not G.’s direct responsibility. G. started doing as said, although it was evident that she was dissatisfied. When the patient said he was a vegetarian and demanded special food, G. could not hold back her emotions and said it was “just a whim.”
The patient became angry as his feeling were hurt, and his expression of personal preferences was mocked by the nurse. The type of conflict was interpersonal and unresolved since it involved two people and led to the intrusion of the nurse leader later.
The Four Stages of Conflict
While conflicts are inevitable, the way of resolving them can mitigate the negative outcomes. As Finkelman and Kenner (2019) note, personal responses of individuals can be more harmful than the problems of resource allocation or poor performance. Typically, four stages of conflict are distinguished: latent, perceived, felt, and manifest (Champoux, 2017). Only three of them can be related to the example I described. Further definition of each stage will explain why the latter stage was not reached. The latent stage involves the circumstances preceding a conflict situation. In our case, it incorporated the level of G.’s exhaust and her irritation at having to remain at work when her shift was almost over.
The perceived stage was when the conflict became obvious, that is, when the nurse announced her reaction to the patient’s personal beliefs. At the felt conflict stage, the patient requested another nurse and complained to the unit nurse about the situation. If G. had had an opportunity to apologize and alleviate the tension, the conflict would have reached the last, manifest, stage. However, since the patient refused to communicate with G., the conflict remained unresolved.
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It is necessary to note that delegation was an issue in that specific conflict. One can only delegate responsibilities when one is sure that the delegated individual knows how to manage them (Finkelman & Kenner, 2019). However, G. was not accustomed to filling out the patient forms (she had only done it several times with someone’s supervision before). Another problem with delegation was that G. was not supposed to remain after her shift, so the nurse felt upset and, as a result, overreacted. Therefore, the head nurse did not delegate responsibility in the appropriate manner.
Strategies for Conflict Resolution and Collaboration with a Nurse Leader
If it is impossible to avoid a conflict, one should take care to resolve it as soon as possible. Sallee (2017) differentiates between the following conflict resolution strategies: avoidance, accommodation, force, compromise, and collaboration. As for me, the most suitable approaches in this case would be accommodation and collaboration. Accommodation presupposes that one individual should “put aside his or her goals to satisfy the other person’s desires” (Sallee, 2017, p. 342). Since the patient could complain about the case to hospital administration and cause adverse outcomes for G., it would have been the wisest decision to do as the patient wanted. Furthermore, he did not demand anything directly from the nurse but merely asked her to make a note about his food preferences.
Collaboration would be the best option, although G. was deprived of it due to the patient’s irritation and refusal to cooperate. Collaboration involves a mutual search of solutions that would satisfy both sides of the conflict (Sallee, 2017). In the case under analysis, G. could have asked the patient more about his references and could have expressed more interest in his worldview. In his turn, the patient should not be so easily irritated and should have allowed the nurse to apologize instead of demanding another specialist immediately. Apart from that, collaboration with a nurse leader might help in situations like this. If I were involved in the conflict, I would have asked the nurse leader to listen to both sides before punishing the nurse. Also, I would have asked the nurse leader to pay attention to the head nurse’s delegation decisions.
Although the experience was unpleasant, it also gave me some valuable insights into my profession. First of all, I learned that delegation only worked if properly considered and controlled. Secondly, I realized that despite being tired, nurses should put patients’ interests in the first place since otherwise, they risk to be reprimanded. I also concluded for myself that I would rather refuse to stay after the shift than risk expressing my negative feelings to a patient.
Finally, I understood the significance of being culturally competent (Purnell & Fenkl, 2019). In our profession, the likelihood of meeting an individual with different tastes, beliefs, and opinions or of different race or gender is rather high. It is crucial for me as a professional to be prepared for such occasions. Nurses should strive to avoid professional conflicts or at least mitigate them at all costs if a conflict has already occurred.
Champoux, J. E. (2017). Organizational behavior: Integrating individuals, groups, and organizations (5th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.
Finkelman, A., & Kenner, C. (2019). Professional nursing concepts: Competencies for quality leadership (4th ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones and Bartlett Learning.
Purnell, L. D., & Fenkl, E. A. (2019). Handbook for culturally competent care. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.
Sallee, A. M. (2017). Effective communication and conflict resolution. In B. Cherry & S. R. Jacob (Eds.), Contemporary nursing: Issues, trends, & management (7th ed.) (pp. 328-350). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier.