Conflict Resolution Approaches in Nursing 

The nursing professional is often grounded in collaborative associations with both patients and colleagues. It entails individuals working closely with others from different cultures and backgrounds. The people involved in the care continuum can hold different views and values, possibly affecting these associations and may lead to conflict.

Therefore, good conflict resolution skills are required in nursing to minimize the risk and implications of conflict. Left unsolved, conflict can depress productivity, fragment team, and sap morale. Furthermore, it is estimated the conflicts costs businesses in the United States approximately $359 billion annually in lost productivity and time.

Handling conflicts in an effective and efficient manner leads to improved staff morale, patient safety, and care quality and limits work stress for the providers. Conflict resolution should be approached solicitously since it entails working relationships which are required for the unit to function effectively.

The nurses and other members of the interdisciplinary healthcare team who must collaborate while navigating roles and responsibilities that usually overlap. A nurse leader must have the skills to effectively resolve conflict situations.

Effective conflict resolution and management requires a level of understanding of the perceived sectors of disagreement and clear communication. Conflict resolution is a central component of a healthy work setting since a breakdown in collaboration and communication can result in increased patient errors.

The Joint Commission’s revised leadership standards introduced a mandate on healthcare leadership to manage disruptive behaviors which impact patient safety while the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses standards for healthy work environments acknowledge the significance of proficiency in communication skills.

Despite the heightened promotion of conflict resolution skills as a key competency for the professional registered nurse (RN) to deliver quality and safe patient care, case of workplace conflicts continues to increase.

Nursing professionals need to evaluate how they deal with conflicts in the healthcare setting as a way of developing and implementing conflict resolution processes and training which help in managing challenging situations.

The Importance of Conflict Resolution in Nursing 

Professional nurses may struggle with conflict resolution in an open manner. Nurse need to accomplish effective team building skills within nursing groups to remain productive and deliver quality care.

The decision-making in team-controlled settings is more superior to those made in a hierarchal environment in terms of both cost effectiveness and quality. The healthcare system is increasingly evolving and becoming more diverse; hence, effective conflict resolution skills are a prerequisite to functioning successfully. 

The conflict resolution process is an opportunity for change and growth in the workplace, with significant potential for increased positive outcomes.

On a personal level, conflict resolution enhanced individual accomplishment while on an organizational level, it supports the overall success and bottom line. When a conflict is managed appropriately, it contributes to higher effectiveness, openness, and trust.  

Research shows that conflict resolution styles are strong determinants of level of morale, job satisfaction, and burnout in the nursing profession. The use of negative coping strategies, such as avoidance and confrontation leads to increased occupational stress, burnout, and other negative outcomes.

As a conflict resolution approach, avoidance produces unproductive and ineffective outcomes as it tends to postpone the conflict. When a conflict is avoided, people tend to neglect their concerns, goals, and needs while attempting to pander to others.

Conflict Resolution Approaches 

Some of the common conflict resolution approaches used in nursing include collaboration, compromise, accommodation, competition, and avoidance. While avoidance is commonly used by nurses, it leads to a lose-lose situation since the conflict remains unresolved.

Research shows that direct care nurses use avoidance to protect themselves during conflicts as they are fearful of being punished or not being supported.

Competition leads to a win-lose situation since one pursues his or her goals while ignoring the other party’s concerns. Competition is preferred when there is a need for a popular or instant decision.

Accommodation promotes a lose-win situation since it entails meeting the other party’s goals. It may be suitable when the goals or issue precedes winning, or when a person is wrong or powerful.

Compromise is a lose-lose situation as it combines cooperation and assertiveness. This approach works when the involved parties have equal power and there is a need for a convenient response. Collaboration is a win-win situation since it focuses on finding a mutual agreeable solution to issues. 

In nursing practice, collaboration is the most recommended approach to conflict resolution. Using a collaborative approach to handling conflict resolution has numerous advantages.

Collaboration with the other party promotes creative problem-solving and provides a way to foster mutual respect and rapport. The problem-solving process continues until the involved parties are satisfied with the resolution. 

While collaboration is an appropriate approach to conflict resolution, it can be very time-consuming; hence, it may not work for very urgent conflict situations. The nurse leader should be well-equipped in conflict resolution to understand interpersonal conflict situations and designate the most appropriate conflict resolution approach for each situation.

Furthermore, nurses can manage or prevent conflict effectively by improving their communication skills. Effective communication is reported when the message is received and interpreted in a manner that it was intended.

Proper communication also entails active listening, maintaining appropriate eye contact, paying attention to body language, and responding to concerns comprehensively. 

Overall, conflicts are inevitable in any healthcare setting. While conflicts can cause fear and stress, with the appropriate tools, conflict is considered as an opportunity for learning and growth. With effective communication and conflict resolution skills, nurses can manage conflicts in a manner that leads to a positive outcome for each party.

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