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Workplace Conflict in the Medical Sphere

Conflicts are an important consideration to take when working in a medical sphere, as their existence can impact the health delivery process in a variety of ways. By definition, a conflict is an event where two or more parties experience an incompatibility between their goals, ideas, beliefs, methods, or expectations (Kim et al., 2017). In a healthcare setting, that could mean a disagreement between nurses or doctors, surgeons, cleaning staff, management, or any other part of the process. While usually a conflict is perceived in a strictly negative light, it can also be a demonstrably positive influence on a workplace, acting as a catalyst for change or improvements (Kim et al., 2017). As a result of a conflict, individuals can come to exhibit better decision-making, judgment, professionalism or work attitudes. On the other hand, conflict can also be a demoralizing and destructive force. They can foster feelings of distrust, decrease the effectiveness and willingness of people to cooperate, and, most importantly, damage the quality of healthcare delivery. A nursing leader must understand how conflicts occur, and how to best direct their outcomes in a more positive direction.

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To better learn the practice of examining a conflict, a particular event will be examined in this paper. A nurse, Amber, starts her shift at work, only to find herself assigned with an increased number of patients, more than she can reasonably manage. The nurse feels exhausted and frustrated, a combination of feelings that is further exacerbated when she finds out that the other nurse, Jeanne, has a considerably smaller number of patients assigned to her on the same shift. As a way of relieving tension, the first nurse vents her frustrations about the situation to her colleague Lisa, during which she comments quite harshly on Nurse Jeanne’s attitude towards practice and personal qualities. The dialogue is accidentally overheard by Jeanne, who feels hurt and insulted over the occurrence, having reservations about further interacting with Nurse Amber. The nurses have had limited interaction in the past, and now their relationship is more strained and covertly hostile. An inability to interact between the two leads to Nurse Jeanne filing a job Transfer Request.

Analyzing the conflict event discussed in the introduction paragraph, the application of the Conflict Model is appropriate. The review should first concern the antecedent conditions of the occurrence (Sullivan, 2017). The conflict can be classified as having occurred because of Values and Beliefs because Nurse Amber has badmouthed Nurse Jeanne believing that the other has a lighter workload than her, and is exhibiting improper behaviors for a nurse. Her ideas about the appropriate amount of patients have driven her to form a negative perception of another nurse, leading to a lack of understanding between the two. Alternatively, the conflict was also partially caused by role conflicts. The reason Nurse Amber has chosen to negatively comment on Nurse Jeanne’s attitudes is due to the difference in her understanding of a nurse’s responsibility. She feels that Jeanne is ill-fitted to work with patients and exhibits and behaviors that are not acceptable in the medical environment.

Since both parties do not interact regularly and have only passing knowledge about each other, they are unable to establish a trusting or intricate relationship for conflict resolution. With no way to verifiably assume goodwill from another person, Amber and Jeanne both see each other as unreasonable and lacking the ability to resolve the conflict in a meaningful manner. The lack of a prior framework of interaction makes their conflict a felt conflict, where both parties harbor negative feelings towards each other. Their work relationship suffers in the process, creating feelings of mistrust, hostility, and competitiveness. Conflict behaviors after the event mainly constitute covert hostility and a lack of cooperation, as the two women avoid working together or communicating in a friendly fashion (Sullivan, 2017). On Jeanne’s side of the problem, this also includes avoidance and feelings of being uncomfortable, which culminate in her issuing a transfer request.

The conflict was suppressed with the Transfer of Nurse Jeanne, who has chosen to change her workplace as a way of escaping the conflict. This resolution has left Nurse Amber as a de facto victor, not having to change or reflect on her behavior in any meaningful way. The two parties have not agreed, and no vision of change was enacted as a result.

The outcome of this event is largely negative, with both parties having left the confrontation unchanged. The goal of Nurse Amber, not having to interact with Jeanne, was fulfilled, not through open communication and change, but avoidance and hostility. This conflict outcome can negatively impact both the quality of cooperation between nurses in the workplace and set a negative precedent for conflict resolution in the future (Sullivan, 2017). A change in addressing issues is highly necessary, to help nurses achieve their work goals more efficiently, as well as find ways of cooperating in a professional setting.


Kim, S., Bochatay, N., Relyea-Chew, A., Buttrick, E., Amdahl, C., Kim, L., Frans, E., Mossanen, M., Khandekar, A., Fehr, R., & Lee, Y.-M. (2017). Individual, interpersonal, and organisational factors of healthcare conflict: A scoping review. Journal of Interprofessional Care, 31(3), 282–290. Web.

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Sullivan, E. J. (2017). Effective Leadership and Management in Nursing. Pearson.

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