Conflict resolution refers to the method whereby two or more warring factions find a diplomatic and harmonious solution to their disagreements. Conflicts may occur between physicians, the healthcare team, the patient’s family, the patient, or between physicians and the staff members. The majority of health amenities may be exposed to the risk of legal sanctions for condoning any hostile working environments. This paper presents a recurring conflict that I have observed between two nurses in a care facility in Miami.
It will outline the events that led to the conflict before detailing how the various conflict stages were manifested in the disagreement I observed, including the strategies that could be applied to handle the disagreement.
In the initial conflict, two nurses in Hospital X in Miami were involved in an altercation regarding medical proficiency. Specifically, one of the nurses (Nurse A) inquired on the type of medication that Nurse B had given to one of the patients. This situation prompted Nurse B to respond with a demeaning attitude since she felt disrespected regarding her medical skills. Nurse A reported that she did not think Nurse B was professional in her work and that she did not understand how one would be in a medical facility while having very little knowledge of medication.
This earlier altercation resulted in insults, which were settled down by the medical supervisor. Consequently, Nurse B always felt that she had a heavy burden that she needed to get off her system, and that had only been waiting for the perfect and opportune moment to do so.
On a different day, specifically, some months after the initial altercation, it was apparent that the conflict was unresolved. The two nurses were asked by one of the doctors to assist in dressing some wounds of a severely ill patient. In the presence of the doctor, Nurse B sarcastically asked Nurse A whether she wanted to be the ‘nurse of the year’ and/or whether she (Nurse A) would not also want to tell the doctor about Nurse B’s incompetency to achieve the privilege of being named the ‘nurse of the year’. The two nurses argued and insulted each other before they later physically assaulted each other.
Regardless of the prior knowledge of a previous conflict encounter between the two nurses, one would still know about it. This situation could be ascertained by the nurses’ despicable communication with each other referencing earlier periods of provocation.
Stages of Conflict
The latent stage is the first of the four phases of conflict. It is also referred to as the unhinged tranquility period. It occurs when parties are in conflict without their awareness. In most situations, latent disagreement is caused by a team’s disproportionate access to the political command or financial disparity. For instance, the government may fail to respond to the minority group’s plight, which may lead to a feeling of disrespect.
Such disrespect causes tensions and eventually conflict. In the scenario of the conflict between the two nurses, Nurse A feels superior. In this case, she is a more privileged party. Thus, Nurse B feels that she is being disrespected in the form of indirect jibes that are targeted at her. This case manifests a latent conflict.
Specifically, the latent stage comes into play when individuals, organizations, nations, or groups have disagreements, which are not huge enough to cause an altercation. Unique and different interests, differential power, and resources trigger these conflicts. According to Ramont, Niedringhaus, and Towle (2005), social life is a vehement status and power struggle, regardless of the structural type.
In addition, the major cause of latent conflict in all groupings or individuals within social relations is power discrepancy. In this stage, the majority of the participants, especially the ones who are privileged in the power play, are usually unaware of the existence of tensions while the less- privileged parties fully conscious of the situation. Such parties feel that they are being unjustly treated. When they decide to change the situation, a conflict emerges as witnessed between the two nurses.
The perceived stage of conflict is subsequent to the latent stage. It occurs when the involved parties in a conflict gain full awareness. It is also referred to as the emergence stage. When underlying grumbles and grievances exceed the normal perseverance threshold on the affected parties, an eruption is bound to occur (Tint, 2008). Conflict becomes visible in this stage when a low-level confrontation ensues. An example is a struggle against apartheid in South Africa where non-violence was used as a demonstration tool. When the government of the time decided to fire towards a peaceful caravan of demonstrators in 1960, the diplomatic crowds realized that armed struggle was a necessity.
Consequently, armed resistance against oppression emerged. For instance, when Nurse A non-violently attacked Nurse B in the latent stage, she vowed to protect herself against any scathing attacks, whether aggressive or peaceful. Therefore, when Nurse B finds an opportunity to revenge on Nurse A, she gladly takes it and projects her violence towards Nurse A in the form of ridicule. In this situation, Nurse B revives old traumas during her vengeance, which eventually leads to a physical altercation.
In care delivery, when most conflicts are not succinctly resolved, they are bound to recur since the disagreeing parties are always in the same locality. For instance, a disagreement between two nurses may attract disrespect from parties who operate in the same work environment (De Dreu, Evers, Beersma, Kluwer, & Nauta, 2001). In the case of the above conflict, delegation is an issue since the parties seem not satisfied with each other’s performance of duties assigned to them.
Such unwarranted behaviors are the cause of their recurring conflict. In addition, many recurring conflicts are comparatively severe when compared to the previous instance. For example, in the above recurrent conflict, two nurses will not only throw indirect jibes but also will probably be involved in fully-fledged violent attacks against each other.
During the felt stage, the participants sense and recognize a conflict. Conflict personalization causes the majority of people to be concerned about clash dysfunctions. Two major reasons reveal why conflict is tailored: when the total personality is involved in the conflict and when anxieties may result from pressures, either within or without a health care facility. Individuals would want to vent such anxieties, especially when their threshold is exceeded.
In the scenario of the conflict between Nurse A and Nurse B, Nurse B becomes highly anxious regarding the reason she was assaulted by Nurse A from the parties’ first altercation. When Nurse B contemplates on the altercation, her whole personality delves deeper into the conflict, a situation that builds high-level anxiety, which is eventually vented out during the parties’ resultant altercation.
The ‘manifest’ stage of conflict is the phase where two conflicting factions engage in a behavior, which warrants immediate a negative response. Such negative responses include disruption, lethargy, pulling out, and open aggression. For instance, in the case study of the two differing nurses, not only do both of them end up physically assaulting each other but also engage in heated and vile verbal exchange. Although violence is hardly used in this phase, it is common during political revolutions, prison riots, or labor unrest in the extreme levels. This stage entails measures that include the application of violence.
To solve any recurring conflict, one needs to be impartial. Neutrality refers to the elimination of bias by analyzing the situation as it appears. As revealed in the case of the two nurses, recurrent conflict is deep-rooted. Thus, to deal with any conflict in the future, one should be patient to investigate the relevant information regarding the level of conflict at the time and its subsequent resolution strategy.
De Dreu, C., Evers, A., Beersma, B., Kluwer, E., & Nauta, A. (2001). A theory-based measure of conflict management strategies in the workplace. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 22(6), 645-668.
Ramont, R., Niedringhaus, D., & Towle, M. (2005). Comprehensive nursing care. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Tint, B. (2008). Constructive conflicts: From escalation to resolution – by Louis Kriesberg. Peace & Change, 33(4), 614-617.
Weiss, S., Tappen, R., & Whitehead, D. (2015). Essentials of nursing leadership and management. Philadelphia: F.A. Davis.