Conflict Resolution Training for Nurses

Conflicts are inevitable in every profession, but they are especially prevalent in nursing management. This reality underscores the importance of conflict management training, particularly in today’s evolving healthcare landscape, where improving patient outcomes is a constant focus.

Resolve’s conflict management training offers a comprehensive program that equips nursing students and professionals with evidence-based strategies to manage conflicts effectively. This training promotes a mutually acceptable solution in the workplace, prioritizes patient well-being, and prevents decreased productivity in the healthcare setting.

conflict resolution for nurses

Why Conflict Resolution Training Is Necessary for Nurses

In healthcare, unlike other professions where customer promises can be fulfilled later, conflict situations can be life-or-death matters. Managing the concerns of a patient’s family, particularly when a life hangs in the balance, requires a unique combination of empathy, specialized knowledge, and strategic thinking.

Conflict management training not only helps prevent conflict situations but also fosters a productive and healthy work environment by enhancing each individual’s conflict management style.

  • Ensuring Patient Safety: Nurses with conflict management abilities communicate and collaborate more effectively with other healthcare providers, often starting right at the nurse’s station. This cooperation significantly reduces the likelihood of errors in patient care, ensuring high-quality care for patients.
  • Boosting Nurses’ Morale: Unresolved workplace conflicts can be a significant stressor for nurses. Conflict management training offers solutions to workplace challenges, which can reduce stress. Nurses equipped to navigate tense situations successfully are more likely to stay motivated, happier, and eager to work.
  • Increasing Nursing Efficiency: A major contributor to negative patient outcomes is human error. Nurses struggling with workplace tensions may make mistakes, such as incorrect medication dosages. Conflict management strategies allow nurses to stay alert and confident in their responsibilities, enhancing their efficiency throughout their shifts.

The Conflict Management Complexities in the Nursing Profession

A typical day for most nurses is a whirlwind of activities: providing care, collecting patient data, responding to emergencies, coordinating healthcare resources, communicating with family members, and performing health-related procedures. Regardless of their managerial positions, nurses face conflicts of greater complexity than those encountered in many other professions.

Nurses are tasked with balancing competing interests and are required to continually update their skills to stay relevant in the healthcare field. Despite the availability of additional resources, the emotionally charged nature of nursing means that many nurses lack the opportunity to learn essential skills for navigating their work environments.

Without appropriate training and with limited role models for collaboration, effective conflict management styles and the resolution process are often challenging to achieve in nursing. Nurses aspire to grow and advance in their careers, but the clinical environment is fraught with challenges such as competitiveness, quick tempers, quick fixes, avoidance, and sometimes even feelings of hopelessness.

Resolve’s conflict management training program can be fundamental in this scenario. It provides a vital link between conflict management strategies and the complex, problem-rich environment of clinics and hospitals. This training empowers nurses to grow and advance in their careers with greater fulfillment and confidence.

What Types of Conflicts Affect the Effectiveness of Nurses?

Open communication among the intensive care team is crucial for effective problem-solving in critical patient care situations. Three primary categories of conflicts impact the nursing profession:

Task-Based Conflicts

In hospitals and clinics, each nurse has specific roles, yet these roles often intersect. Although individuals are expected to fulfill their responsibilities, conflicts may arise when nursing professionals disagree over who should complete a technical procedure or when there’s a disagreement on the method of execution.

For instance, one nurse might choose a different technique for inserting an IV, deviating from the standard procedure used in the hospital. If an agreement is not reached, patient care may be delayed. Situations can worsen if one nurse insists on their method, leading to feelings of disrespect.

Value-Based Conflicts

Beyond task execution, nursing also operates under strict professional values. Additionally, nurses bring their personal values to work. Conflicts frequently surface when the personal values of one party interfere with collaborative work, hindering the adoption of common professional values.

For example, differences may arise when one nurse manager vocalizes personal beliefs used in decision-making and another nurse disagrees, preferring an alternative approach. Conflicts can also occur when nurses encounter patients with differing political views.

Regardless of these differences, a nurse must always deliver the highest level of care and compassion, respecting patients’ and colleagues’ values, even when they differ from their own.

Interpersonal Conflict

Due to the interactive nature of the nursing profession, clear communication with other healthcare personnel is necessary. An interpersonal conflict can emerge when varying communication styles obstruct effective care for patients.

Diverse personalities among nurses can also affect cooperation, such as when one nurse manager is not flexible enough to assist others or when a nurse lacks patience with a slower coworker. In some cases, a dominant nurse might bully those with more subdued personalities, creating a toxic work environment. These interpersonal conflicts can negatively impact teamwork among the parties involved, which is critical for providing care.

Identifiable Challenges in Conflict Management in Nursing

There are multiple approaches to handling conflict, and these differences contribute to their inability to resolve them effectively. Some of the major barriers to effective conflict management for nurses include:

  • Competition: Nurses sometimes fail to reach a clear understanding with coworkers because their strategies are centered around competition. These nurses are overly assertive and focus more on winning an argument rather than finding a viable solution.
  • Obliging: In contrast to assertive nurses, some adopt an obliging approach as their main conflict resolution strategy. This approach often aims to please the involved parties rather than find a solution. While it’s important for nurses to be accommodating to others’ ideas, it should not come at the cost of devaluing their own opinions. Obliging can help advance an idea, but it can also lead to nurses withholding valid opinions and convictions in an effort to maintain peace.
  • Avoidance: Other nurses prefer to avoid conflicts altogether. These individuals might leave the room rather than confront the issue directly. Avoidance can prevent a conflict from escalating, but it also increases the likelihood of ideas not being thoroughly examined. Over time, this conflict management strategy can be detrimental. Instead, learning to manage conflict effectively can lead to more constructive outcomes and a healthier work environment.
  • Compromising: Conflict management often results in one side being satisfied and the other conceding. Compromising involves adopting a ‘me versus you’ mentality, leaving involved parties only partially satisfied. While compromise is beneficial if an idea warrants it, an incorrect idea should be acknowledged as such without the need to placate anyone.

Conflict Management Strategies Most Suited for the Nursing Profession

Nurse managers facing interpersonal, values-based, and task-based conflicts in nursing have different options on how to handle these situations, each reflecting a unique conflict management style. If you encounter conflicts as a nurse, you can follow any one of the following five routes and foster mutual respect:

Step 1: Choose Your Battles

Nurses must choose their battles when solving conflicts with their coworkers. It is natural to experience differences in opinion, but these differences are not worth turning an assignment into an all-out war.

For example, you cannot draw the line in the sand as a travel nurse. Just choose your battles and behave in ways that promote cooperation and collaboration and some compromise with the involved parties. You can decide that you will speak up only when some actions put the safety of patients at risk and when they hinder you from keeping patients safe.

Step 2: Know Your Part in the Conflict

Before you can raise an issue that is bound to cause conflict, you should carefully analyze the pivotal role you may have played in causing the situation. Maybe you were unreasonable or unclear in your requests. Interpersonal conflict management starts with your willingness to first own up to your part.

Step 3: Reach Out to the Other Person Involved

When nurses encounter conflict situations, they can try to be the first to reach out to the involved parties. You can always speak with them after work and in private, which means that you should plan for the right time. It is also considered easier to speak with these individuals when emotions are no longer running high.

The spot you pick out for your discussion should be away from the stress and away from the rush of the hospital. Take a deep breath and focus on expressing your concerns clearly so your colleague can understand why the interpersonal conflict ensued in the first place. This open communication allows for a constructive dialogue where both parties can share their perspectives and feelings.

Step 4: Keep an Open Mind

You cannot reach an agreement with another individual if you are still forcing them to accept your opinion and to shelve theirs. The root of most disagreements is usually fundamental misunderstandings.

In a healthcare setting, we all strive for the same patient outcomes, and that is to see patients happy, healthy, and ready to rejoin their families. That shared goal should show you why you need to keep an open mind because you are all building a common ground.

Step 5: Seek Help from Above

Some concerns may not be resolved even after following the four steps above. The last step is to turn to higher levels for mediation when the issue is simply out of your control.

Where to Provide Conflict Resolution Training

A nurse leader is expected to continue acquiring knowledge in line with the ever-evolving healthcare environment. Some of these courses occur outside the clinical environment, but Resolve’s conflict resolution training can occur within the clinical environment.

Our programs are designed to fit into different learning environments, and nurses can receive training on effective conflict resolution, thus fostering job satisfaction. Conflict management training can take place at:

  • Workshops and conferences
  • Retreats
  • Staff members meeting
  • Human resource development programs
  • Clinical settings through grand rounds
  • Brown bag discussions
  • Internal newsletters
  • Websites
  • Leadership professional development courses
  • Integration of facilitation and mediation techniques into patient safety processes

Resolve’s Conflict Management Training Strategies That Work for Nurses

In conflict management training, you will learn about the different conflict management styles as they apply to workplace conflict. Our training framework for teaching conflict management strategies to the nursing professional ties the principles of dispute resolution to your clinical experience.

The Power of Analogies During Facilitated Sessions

Analogies as a training strategy help you understand how the methods you use to resolve conflict in the workplace mirror the clinical practices you employ in patient care. For example, a group of obstetricians can be tasked with the responsibility of developing an important guidelines document.

While engaged in the process, they encounter concerns in understanding why it is necessary to create the document, realizing that content is not the only important aspect. This group of obstetricians will need to resolve conflict regarding this understanding.

An analogy to the birth of a baby can be illustrative in this context. Just as a baby stays in the mother’s womb for 40 weeks, requiring attention to important details throughout this period, the process of document creation similarly demands careful consideration and collaborative effort in resolving conflict and achieving a successful outcome.

The baby’s time in the womb is the process needed to develop a healthy document, and the obstetricians can understand why they need to focus on the process and not just the content or the healthy baby born after the elapse of 40 weeks. The time they need to take should comprise collaboration and working together at different levels for them to produce an effective strategies book.

The Use of Problem-Solving as a Tool during Training

The healthcare profession is always about solving problems. Most nurses are taught how to analyze nursing concerns, come up with a strategy, find the necessary resources, and solve the conflict. It is an ability that comes with training. The same expertise can also be used in the conflict management process if the nurses can learn how.

For example, the steps a nurse leader takes when caring for a patient can be integrated into developing conflict management strategies when dealing with the other party. The first step when caring for a patient involves assessment and diagnosis of the illness or disease that brought the patient to the hospital.

This step is followed by creating a treatment plan and, later, an evaluation of the treatment plan. If the patient is not improving, the nurse should modify the plan. Similarly, these steps can lead to effective resolution in conflict situations, such as a dispute involving the visiting hours on a nurse’s unit.

Some nurses will diagnose and treat this conflict, ignoring the issues that led to the problem in the first place. If there is inconsistency in enforcing the visiting hours policy, there must be a cause for that inconsistency, and identifying causes is a critical step in conflict management with the other party.

Learn Conflict Management Skills with Resolve

As a nurse leader, you have a unique opportunity to learn conflict management early in your profession. These skills will not only make you a more effective nurse manager but also increase your chances of receiving promotions and enhancing your leadership style.

At Resolve, our conflict management training aims to incorporate educational projects and experiential learning into the training strategies. This approach is designed to assist a nurse leader in effective management, emphasizing the importance of managing conflict for nursing students and health professionals. Contact us today to learn more about our offerings.

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