Role, Conflict, Social Exchange Theories in Nursing

Natalie’s Case

The case of Natalie Kazakova is familiar to many nurses that come from diverse backgrounds and want to pursue a career in healthcare. She is regularly challenged by her co-workers to prove her self-worth as well as show her professional skills. This occurs because the immense pressure in the workplace usually triggers conflicts during which professionals feel that they could attack others for no reason. It is essential to note that Natalie is a qualified professional with a master’s in nursing and a bachelor’s in engineering, which means that there are no reasons for her to experience severe pressure from her co-workers.

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Sociological Theories

Role theory, conflict theory, and social exchange theory are three key theories that should be discussed in Natalie’s case because they show how and why she has developed such difficult relationships with her co-workers, which made her even to doubt the choice of the career. In contrast to my previous knowledge, Natalie’s case showed me that the application of sociological theories could be extremely useful in guiding interactions between healthcare professionals. In the past, I considered these theories as not applicable to the nursing practice.

Role theory implies a set of ideas which explain that people play different roles in life that subsequently pre-determine the ways in which they behave (van der Horst, 2016). Conflict theory suggests that tensions between individuals can appear due to the unequal distribution of power, resources, and status between different groups (Crossman, 2017). Social exchange theory explains that consensus and stability within social interactions can be achieved through the process of negotiations and exchanges (Redmond, 2015). During their work as new nurses, professionals are often challenged to explore these theories to establish trusting and productive relationships with the rest of the staff.

Finding a Solution

If to decide between the options that Natalie was given by her professor, the most viable but bold solution to her problem may be to speak up and make sure that other nurses understand that she is a brand new Registered Nurse who needs to have a learning period to adjust to a new work setting. This option does not mean that Natalie is recommended to argue with her co-workers and create more tension in the workplace. Rather, speaking her mind will allow the nurse to receive some level respect and understanding from other professionals working side-by-side to her because it is highly likely that they have experienced the same adjusting period once started working.

The theory of social exchanges applies to this solution the most because Natalie will be expected not only to speak up but also to learn how to approach her co-workers from the perspective of reaching a consensus. Because the nurse is definitely in a disadvantaged position of being disrespected, which aligns with the conflict theory, her efforts to improve the relationships in the workplace will imply negotiations. An example of my experience when the role theory was applied was professionals offering to do some paperwork in exchange for being shown how to manage patients’ electronic health records. A similar gesture will show that Natalie acknowledges her need to learn new things about her job but that she is also ready to give out a helping hand to others.

It is important to understand the part that role theory can play in Natalie’s case. Since nurses who have been in their positions for some time know how to manage complicated situations, Natalie should acknowledge their superiority regarding this and be prepared to ask for advice. While it is expected that the nurse experiences some tension and conflicts in the future, being vocal about her situation while offering help is likely to put Natalie in a better position.


Crossman, A. (2017). Understanding conflict theory. Web.

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Redmond, M. (2015). Social exchange theory. Web.

van der Horst, M. (2016). Role theory. Web.

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