The stressful workplace environment of a modern healthcare facility is known to be prone to conflicts. While they are traditionally viewed as having a negative impact on the performance of nurses, the application of relevant leadership skills and thorough analysis can turn an incident into an advantage. However, in order for such scenario to become a reality, it is necessary to correctly identify and analyze the conflict and apply the appropriate curative measures. The following paper provides an example of a strategy that might be used to resolve a conflict observed in a Miami hospital setting.
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The conflict in question occurred between two nurses during routine patient rounds. Closer to the end of the procedure, one of the nurses has engaged in a conversation with one of the patients. The patient in question was known to actively take part in the treatment process, exercising additional caution when checking for medication schedules. On the day of the incident, however, the issue brought up by the patient was not of a particular significance, and was resolved relatively quickly. Nevertheless, near the end of the conversation, the second nurse has reminded her of the need to finish the rounds on time.
This remark was immediately acknowledged by the first nurse, who excused herself and exited the room. Once both were outside, the second nurse went on with voicing her dissatisfaction with the actions of the co-worker who supposedly wasted her time on unnecessary conversations with patients. The first one then parried by pointing to the importance of assisting the patients who take drug safety seriously. A short but heated discussion followed, which made it clear that the issue of a disrupted schedule is a long-standing one, and was suspected to be caused by the tendency of the first nurse to “engage in conversations with patients.” The argument was terminated by the second nurse, who again alluded to the pressing time and went in the direction of the next room.
The entire conflict occurred relatively discretely. Both nurses acted politely and did not raise their voices so that they could only be heard in the immediate vicinity. It is safe to say that the workflow of the setting was not disrupted. Neither other staff members nor any of the patients were exposed to the incident, with the exception of the initial witness. Nevertheless, the presence of the conflict raises several troubling possibilities. First, the incident is expected to have a negative impact on the emotional well-being of both individuals. The situation is further aggravated by the fact that neither of the nurses was satisfied by the outcome. This opens up the risk of a recurring conflict, which, unlike the observed one, can be witnessed by the patients, resulting in the undermined trust towards the professional qualities of the personnel. Alternatively, one of the nurses can choose to modify her behavior, which, while plausible, counters the concept of workplace responsibility (the actions of both nurses can be justified as facilitating patient information and adherence to schedule).
The conflict was initiated as a result of interpretations of well-intended actions as disruptive for the workflow. Thus, it is possible to assert that it was caused by different priorities or, to be more specific, by the lack of consensus on the allocation of professional responsibilities. Based on this, it can be characterized as an individual conflict (Kim et al., 2016). Admittedly, the rapidly expanding field of nursing is known to produce situations where the lack of well-defined margins leads to confusion. Another aspect of it that deserves mention is the confidence with which both sides behaved in the situation. While neither of the nurses was apparently convinced by the counterarguments, they quickly resumed their routines. Nevertheless, the subtle stubbornness and emotional tension demonstrated by the participants suggests the lack of cooperation and trusted communication channels between the staff members, and suggested that the conflict was not resolved.
The first stage of the conflict is latent conflict. At this stage, the issue is introduced that irritates one of the participants. In the observed conflict, the initiation of a conversation with the patient served as a latent stage. The second stage, known as perceived conflict, is when an event or a behavior threatens to disrupt the course of events desirable for one of the parties. In many cases, this stage occurs as a result of a low-level misunderstanding between the parties. In the example above, the perceived conflict occurred when the second nurse decided that her co-worker’s conversation threatened to disrupt the schedule, and can be associated with the lack of agreement on the range of their responsibilities. The third stage, felt conflict, is when one of the sides recognizes it on a cognitive level. In simple terms, the conflict is felt once the disruption above becomes a feasible concern.
In the case of the observed conflict, it occurred once the second nurse has associated the previous discrepancies in the schedule with the conversations held by the first nurse. Finally, the fourth stage of the conflict, manifest conflict, occurs when the dissatisfied party voices its concern and engages in a direct confrontation, withdrawal, apathy, or compliance with rules. This stage was observed when the second nurse made her first comment and resumed outside the room. Despite the professional manner in which it was handled, the conflict did not result in a settlement and occurred in the presence of witnesses, which does not allow categorizing it as constructive (Kim, Nicotera, & McNulty, 2015). In addition, since both participants were performing their professional duties, no delegation was involved in the conflict, although the same scenario is certainly possible, if not more likely, to occur with delegates present.
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Conflict Resolution Strategies
The most evident approach to the conflict in question requires collaboration with a nurse leader. This is especially important since neither of the nurses has made any violations of their professional responsibilities and were likely feeling rightfully dismayed by the injustice done to them on a professional level (Almost et al., 2016). The recommended course of action is thus to organize a meeting for the nurses in question and establish common ground by pointing to the correctness of both actions. In addition, it would be necessary to update the staff of the facility on the range of responsibilities of the nurses and cover the possible deviations that are expected to arise naturally in the process (Udlis & Mancuso, 2015). One of the possible ways to do this is to organize a series of educational events that would bring up important points and eliminate the most common issues. In this way, role ambiguity will be reduced and, hopefully, trust between the stakeholders will be enhanced.
Despite their immediate negative impact, workplace conflicts can provide positive outcomes when timely addressed and resolved. The resolution of such conflicts, handled in cooperation with the nurse leader, is expected to improve understanding between nurses and decrease ambiguity of roles in the professional environment. In the long term, these outcomes will lead to the creation of a healthier workplace environment and, by extension, improve performance and patient satisfaction rates.
Almost, J., Wolff, A. C., Stewart‐Pyne, A., McCormick, L. G., Strachan, D., & D’souza, C. (2016). Managing and mitigating conflict in healthcare teams: An integrative review. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 72(7), 1490-1505.
Kim, S., Buttrick, E., Bohannon, I., Fehr, R., Frans, E., & Shannon, S. E. (2016). Conflict narratives from the health care frontline: A conceptual model. Conflict Resolution Quarterly, 33(3), 255-277.
Kim, W. S., Nicotera, A. M., & McNulty, J. (2015). Nurses’ perceptions of conflict as constructive or destructive. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 71(9), 2073-2083.
Udlis, K. A., & Mancuso, J. M. (2015). Perceptions of the role of the doctor of nursing practice-prepared nurse: Clarity or confusion. Journal of Professional Nursing, 31(4), 274-283.