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The Importance of Conflict Resolution for Nurse Administrators

Conflict may occur among employees and other individuals in every industry. However, the fast-paced environment and critical situations in nursing coupled with personality clashes can cause unresolved conflicts to jeopardize the welfare of patients. So, it is essential that nurse administrators focus on ways to prevent dissension or readily defuse it. A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) – Nursing Administration program prepares nurses to prevent and manage disruptive or volatile situations.

What Is Conflict in Nursing?

Conflict in nursing is a disagreement or argument — spoken or unspoken — that may arise between two or more individuals because of opposing viewpoints, goals, preferences, values or beliefs. Generally, the sources of conflict in nursing are:

  • Other nurses
  • Patients
  • Physicians
  • Patients' family members
  • Managers or nurse leaders

What Is Conflict Resolution?

Conflict resolution is the action that a nurse administrator takes to mediate or solve issues between co-workers that causes disharmony in the workplace.

What Are Some Reasons for Conflict?

A variety of disparities among nurses, co-workers, staff, patients and visitors can develop in a healthcare setting. Some reasons for conflict include:

  • Competition among healthcare professionals
  • Expectations about the level of competence co-workers should exhibit
  • Different personalities
  • Disputes about patient care
  • Inadequate communication skills
  • Nonexistent working relationship with an individual or members of healthcare team

How Does Conflict Affect a Healthcare Organization?

The most dangerous aspect of conflict in nursing is that the quality of patient care may be compromised. When nurses are distracted or agitated, they may make medical errors that can harm patients. Conflicts can also result in the following:

  • Decreased productivity
  • Interruption of workflow
  • Loss of motivation

What Are Common Methods Nurses May Use for Resolving Conflicts?

Without guidance from a nurse administrator, nurses may try to resolve conflicts themselves. Here are five common methods.

Accommodation – An individual or group is willing to concede to the other party without resistance so everyone can move beyond the conflict and continue to work together. A real resolution is not achieved.

Avoidance – The problem is not solved because one or both of the participants in the conflict are uncooperative, denies that there is trouble, or does not want to engage in a resolution. This method is not a recommended strategy for conflict management because ignoring the problem can increase stress for everyone in the workplace and communication suffers further.

Collaboration – Both parties involved in the conflict are committed to discussing the problem, evaluating solutions and pinpointing the best conclusion for resolution.

Compromise –  A win/lose resolution that is carried out through negotiation, trade-offs and exchanges. This is an ineffective method that can lead to power struggles, hostility, frustration and a lack of commitment to accomplishing goals.

Confrontation – When emotions boil over, nurses embroiled in a conflict may become combative. Again, this is not a good way to deal with conflict because irrational and accusatory behavior can shut down communication needed for a workable resolution.

What Are 5 Tips for Managing Conflicts in a Healthcare Setting?

Conflicts are inevitable in healthcare settings, so nurse administrators should be prepared with strategies to achieve a positive resolution. Here are five tips they can incorporate into their conflict resolution process:

  1. Acknowledge that there is a conflict.
  2. Listen attentively to identify and understand the problem.
  3. Refrain from being judgmental.
  4. Ask thought-provoking questions to ascertain the facts and probe for solutions.
  5. Stay calm, focus on a resolution and demonstrate confidence in your decision.

For nurse administrators, conflict resolution is challenging but necessary. Not all conflicts in nursing are bad; sometimes it can be a learning experience. Conflicts, and their resolutions, may also improve relationships and stimulate progress. It is important for nurse administrators to promote a collaborative and respectful working environment so nurses can express their concerns and feel comfortable sharing their grievances. Effective conflict management in healthcare settings helps patients receive the highest level of care.

Learn more about Texas A&M International University's online MSN – Nursing Administration program.


DiversityNursing Blog: Conflict Resolution in Nursing Concepts of Management: NCLEX-RN

The Nurse Speak: Workplace Conflict Resolution Strategies for Nursing

HCPro: Keys to Leadership: 5 Tips to Prevent Conflict

Minority Nurse: 3 Tips to Improve Conflict Resolution Skills

Healthy Workforce Institute: 5 Conflict Resolution Strategies for Savvy Nurse Managers Tips to Managing Conflict Well on the Job

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