In many organizations, conflict forms a part of the daily interaction between various workers or groups of people. Misunderstandings can arise as a result of miscommunication, opposing views, immediate circumstances, or individual differences. While in some cases conflicts can be productive and help to improve organizational functioning, unresolved issues within work culture impede employees’ productivity, disrupt collaboration, and decrease personnel engagement in and commitment to their job. In the context of nursing, disputes and disagreements also indirectly affect patients by posing a threat to their fast and successful recovery. This essay will describe a recent conflict in one of the hospitals located in Miami and discuss potential strategies for dealing with work-related quarrels in health organizations.
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During my prelicensure experience at a local hospital, I observed a conflict between a young nurse and an experienced physician who did not agree on the best way to proceed with the treatment of the patient who failed to show improvement after receiving his treatment. The nurse suggested that the ill person required more attention and psychological support in order to regain his optimism and feel better.
At the same time, the physician asserted that if the treatment failed to work, the patients’ mood would certainly not help him to recover from his illness. In addition, the doctor suggested that the nurse should have spent her limited work time administering medicines rather than engaging in conversations with her patients. The woman looked intimidated by the physician, and I doubt that she later tried to discuss the issue with the head nurse. As the consequence of the conflict, the nurse began spending less time talking to her patients, which deprived them of the necessary psychological support and compassion. In the long term, the results of this interpersonal disagreement are likely to have a negative impact on the recovery rates of ill people at the hospital.
The described situation can be classified as a disruptive conflict because it stemmed from the physician’s attempt to force his opinion on the other person. According to Higazee (2015), this is one of the most common problems that nurses face in the hospital settings. Unfortunately, physicians often perceive nurses merely as helping personnel who do not have the knowledge and experience to make independent decisions regarding the medical treatment of patients.
Given the frequency of such situations in hospital environments and their adverse effects on both recovery rates and staff cohesion, disruptive conflicts remain a serious problem within health establishments. In the described instance, the disagreement was unresolved since the doctor used his authority to subdue the nurse instead of addressing the issue and collaboratively finding a solution to the problem. Consequently, the conflict might reemerge in different circumstances or between different hospital workers.
Finkelman (2016) distinguishes four stages of conflicts, namely latent, perceived, felt, and manifest. Latent stage refers to certain preconditions that can lead to disagreement. In case of the confrontation between the physician and the nurse, the main factor contributing to the conflict was the difference in professional opinions regarding the best approach to the treatment of patients. Perceived stage describes the phase of disagreement when involved parties realize their opposition.
Also, they see each other as a potential threat to their goals, whereas felt stage denotes the time when people begin experiencing psychological consequences of a conflict, such as tension, anxiety, or stress. In the described situation, perceived and felt stages of the disagreement were likely to have occurred in the time preceding the witnessed incident. Finally, manifest stage of a conflict is the period when opposing sides actively engage in their confrontation. The observed episode at the hospital pertained to this last phase of a conflict, with the physician openly confronting the nurse. Even though the situation ended with apparent obedience on the part of the nurse, it is probable that the conflict will be escalated in future, leading to further repetitions of perceived, felt, and manifest stages.
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The five general strategies for resolving disagreements are avoidance, accommodation, competition, compromise, and collaboration. Avoidance strategy is used when an overt conflict is being avoided, which often results in the delayed resolution of problems. Accommodation strategy refers to one’s choice to subdue, whereas competition reflects one’s determination to fight for one’s position. Furthermore, compromise involves both parties making concessions, while collaboration requires opposing people or groups to search for mutually beneficial solutions.
According to Baddar, Salem, and Villagracia (2016), Saudi Arabian nurses prefer competition followed by compromise and avoidance as a way of addressing their conflicts with doctors; whereas, the nurses’ least commonly utilized strategy is accommodation. In the observed confrontation at the Miami hospital, the physician chose to compete for his position, which prompted the nurse to adapt accommodation strategy. Collaboration, however, would have been a better solution for the observed situation as it would have ensured that hospital patients received both effective medical treatment and psychological support.
Hopeck and Harrison (2017) proposed more specific ways of addressing conflicts in hospital settings, such as: refocusing, reconciling, referring, reframing, and reflecting. Refocusing helps to shift attention from the opinions of arguing sides to the needs of patients. Reconciling calls for the intervention of a third party to solve a disagreement, while referring strategy relies on a specialist in a particular field to do so. Moreover, reframing strategy can help to focus on the essence of the argument, and reflecting ensures that opposing sides clearly understand each other. Most of these strategies could have been successfully applied in the context of the Miami hospital.
For instance, the physician seemed to be more focused on championing his opinion than on the needs of a particular patient, which means that refocusing might have helped him to discuss the issue in a more productive way. Similarly, reframing and reflecting strategies would have helped to achieve a better understanding between the parties, leading to a mutually acceptable solution. Finally, the hospital workers might have asked the head nurse to provide an impartial opinion on the matter.
The conflict at the Miami hospital demonstrated a deep-rooted issue of misunderstanding between two workers of different though related health professions. Instead of achieving an optimal solution, the employers chose unproductive strategies for dealing with the confrontation, which was likely to negatively affect the quality of medical services rendered at the hospital. In order to prevent similar situations in future, all employees should receive training in conflict management and learn how to solve arising arguments by compromising or collaborating. Additionally, the hospital should devise procedures that would facilitate the resolution of intra-organizational misunderstandings by involving a third party, such as the head nurse.
Baddar, F., Salem, O. A., & Villagracia, H. N. (2016). Conflict resolution strategies of nurses in a selected government tertiary hospital in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Journal of Nursing Education and Practice, 6(5), 91-99.
Finkelman, A. W. (2016). Leadership and management for nurses: Core competencies for quality care (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.
Higazee, M. Z. A. (2015). Types and levels of conflicts experienced by nurses in the hospital settings. Health Science Journal, 9(6). Web.
Hopeck, P., & Harrison, T. R. (2017). Reframing, refocusing, referring, reconciling, and reflecting: Exploring conflict resolution strategies in end-of-life situations. Health communication, 32(2), 240-246.