Conflicts in a healthcare setting are dangerous because they may affect patient outcomes adversely. Due to this reason, hospital management should ensure that executives and staff members have proper conflict resolution skills. Additionally, policies of a healthcare establishment should address issues that occurred in the past and may affect medical professionals, to avoid similar situations. This paper aims to examine a case scenario from a perspective of four stages of conflict and offer a strategy for solving the issue.
During my work at the Miami Hospital, I have witnessed several conflicts both with patients and among the medical personnel. Labrague and McEnroe – Petitte (2017) state that “conflict is a reality in the nursing profession,” thus, medical professionals should be prepared to resolve possible issues (p. 45). This case revolves around a new nurse who recently began working for the hospital and a nurse leader. The unit we were working in was short on staff; thus, some nurses had to have extra patient cases in some periods. Before the beginning of the shift, the nurse leader walked into to hand in the assignment for the day. As it turned out the new nurse had five cases for that day, while other nurses had to attend to three or four patients.
The nurse in question did not hesitate to speak out on the issue; however, she did it in front of the other staff members. Additionally, she was not polite, possibly because she felt that the manager mistreated her because she was new to the hospital. Furthermore, she stated that this was not the first time she was given more work than others were. The outcome of the conflict was the decision of nurse leader to transfer two patients to a different nurse; however, the concerns of the new employee were not addressed. Therefore, this conflict was not resolved to the full extent.
The delegation was part of the issue in the case scenario because the conflict was about some cases assigned to a particular nurse. It is because the question of nurse leader distributing responsibilities to other staff members was creating a problem. The described scenario is an example of an interpersonal conflict because it involves a disagreement between a nurse leader and an employee. Shah (2017) states that “interpersonal conflict is a disagreement between two persons or subgroups of an organization involving significant bitterness and dissatisfaction” (p. 44).
The new nurse felt that she was maltreated, leading to resentment with management’s decisions. According to Jerng et al. (2017), such conflicts occur due to improper communication, work stress, and competing priorities for tasks. These conflicts are especially dangerous because they may lead to a lower quality of patient care, medical errors, burnout, or increase in the cost of care.
The first stage of the conflict, latent, has occurred before the incident described above. It is because the new nurse felt that she was mistreated for a while. Thus, it can be argued that the latent stage began from the first tasks that were given to the nurse since she regularly had more patients than other staff members. Lack of communication and support can be the primary factor to conflict escalation at this stage (Finkelman, 2016). Therefore, latent conflict is the beginning of the problem escalation, where parties may or may not recognize the issue.
The perceived conflict stage involves awareness of the conflict. In regards to the described scenario, this stage occurred during the last case assignment for nurses. Finkelman (2016) states that at this stage causes and possible solutions can be identified. In this scenario, the new nurse has formed her attitude towards having more tasks than others. No proper communication was present at this stage, as the new employee did not speak to the nurse leader before the confrontation.
The felt conflict involves an individual’s feeling towards a situation, which in this case was displayed by the nurse’s dissatisfaction with the situation. Trust between individuals is crucial for de-escalation for the conflict not to reach the next stage, which was not present in the described case (Finkelman, 2016). The final step, manifestation was displayed through the conversation between the nurse leader and the new nurse. However, nurse leader identified a solution without talking about the causes or rationale for her previous decisions, which led to a lack of proper resolution. The two did not discuss the problem in question openly to find a resolution and ensure that such issues do not occur in the future.
The Solution to the Conflict
I would collaborate with a nurse leader to reach consensus through open discussion of the issue. According to Finkelman (2016), the key to resolving nursing conflicts is a negotiation. All parties involved in the situation can speak and ask questions regarding their concerns. After that, clear guidelines should be presented by executives to ensure that such cases do not escalate in the future. In this case, neither a new employee nor nurse leader had a chance to state their arguments.
It was evident that the unit was overloaded with work. However, the new nurse was given easier cases while other staff members took care of patients who required more attention. Explaining this rationale for case assignments would help resolve the problem at the latent conflict stage.
It is possible that the nurse leader decided to address the problem in a more suitable time and setting. According to Finkelman (2016), in cases where emotional tension is present, it is better to let some time pass before discussing solutions. Additionally, several aspects of interpersonal communication have to be considered when addressing the problem. Finkelman (2016) state that listening skills, eye contact, lack of emotions or personal attitude, good knowledge of policies, and trust establishment are vital for conflict resolution.
Therefore, in this case, it is better to allow some time to pass before talking to the new employee. Furthermore, after the solution is established, a nurse leader should create a policy, according to which managers have to explain the rationale for assigning more tasks to individuals. Such an approach would ensure that similar cases are avoided in the future.
The best strategy for resolving the conflict would be to wait until the parties are less emotional and have a negotiation regarding the problem, its causes, and consequences. All aspects of nurse’s concerns should be addressed, and proper policy should assure that future conflicts of such nature do not occur. In the described scenario, the lack of appropriate communication was the primary component, which leads to escalation. The assignment has provided a valuable experience because I was able to rethink the situation and find credible approaches, which would help me deal with conflicts in the future.
Finkelman, A. (2016). Leadership and management for nurses (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.
Jerng, J. S., Huang, S. F., Liang, H. W., Chen, L. C., Lin, C. K., Huang, H. F., … Sun, J. S. (2017). Workplace interpersonal conflicts among the healthcare workers: Retrospective exploration from the institutional incident reporting system of a university-affiliated medical center. PloS one, 12(2), e0171696. Web.
Labrague, L.J., & McEnroe-Petitte, D. M. (2017). An integrative review on conflict management styles among nursing students: Implications for nurse education. Nurse Education Today, 59, 45-52. Web.
Shah, M. (2017). Impact of interpersonal conflict in health care setting on patient care; the role of nursing leadership style on resolving the conflict. Nursing & Care Open Access Journal, 2(2), 1-10. Web.