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Nurses: Advice for Conflict Management

Career News November 25, 2013

Nursing conflict management skills may be the most important set of skills that a nurse can ever learn. Sadly, however, these skills are often not covered in most nursing curriculum. Like all people, nurses face conflict in their personal lives with their neighbors and their families. They also face additional conflicts at work between themselves and doctors, other nurses, patients, and the families of patients. Conflict is inevitable, and learning to deal with conflicts is critical to reducing stress in the work environment and achieving long term happiness, success, and job satisfaction.

What is Conflict?

In order to gain nursing conflict management skills, the nurse must first understand what conflict is. Conflict is an inevitable part of any life that includes contact with other human beings. According to Pam Marshall, author of “Conflict Resolution: What Nurses Need to Know,” conflict occurs for a variety of reason including:

•Having different values
•Competing over scarce resources
•Miscommunication or lacking information
•Relationships that are breaking down

In many cases, conflict occurs because one or more of the people involved feel as if their needs are not being met. When dealing with conflict, nurses first need to admit that they are experiencing normal and inevitable feelings.

Dealing with Conflict

People deal with conflict in many different ways. Each of the following ways can be useful or damaging depending upon the circumstances. They include:

•Avoiding the issue
•Competing with the other person
•Accommodating the other party’s needs

Conflict in the Healthcare Industry

The unique nature of the healthcare industry means that nurses often have to face more conflict than many people in most other industries. The following list examines some of the reasons that conflict is rife within the healthcare industry:

•The complex nature of the healthcare system creates misunderstanding which leads to conflicts

•The wide range of education and power that is held by people in this industry creates disparity which also leads to conflict

•The racial, class, and social diversity that is often found in most healthcare settings can lead to miscommunications and misunderstandings which create and heighten conflict.

•Because healthcare professionals are working to preserve the lives of their patients, they may have to deal with their patients’ personal or religious beliefs, and these strongly held beliefs can lead to conflict when they contrast with the medical protocol of the situation

Finding the Best Solution

When many people consider nursing conflict management skills, they often claim that compromise is always the right solution. Although a compromise can be invaluable at times, it usually means that both parties are forced to give up something. Instead of compromising, the people who are in conflict should try to work toward a collaborative agreement.

When looking for a collaborative agreement, both parties should examine the needs that lie under the conflict. This can be a lot more useful than only focusing on the positions that each person is arguing. By focusing on each person’s needs, it ultimately becomes easier to create a solution that truly works for everyone involved.

In many cases, conflicts are made dramatic because one or both of the parties involved believe that the other person is trying to annoy or hurt them. To find the resolution, this assumptive position needs to be avoided. Nurses who want to develop strong nursing conflict management skills need to admit that the other person is not trying to hurt them, and they need to instead unearth how the other party’s needs are not being met by the current situation.

Managing and Eliminating Conflict

Conflict is inevitable especially for nurses. Therefore, it is essential to develop a set of skills to deal with it. To prevent or manage these situations as they arise, nurses should consider taking the following steps:

•Taking conflict management classes
•Improving their communication skills
•Realizing the males and females or people from different cultures may have different communication styles

By understanding the nature of conflict, nurses have the first skill that they need to deal with it. They should always strive to validate the other person’s needs while clearly communicating their own needs. By unearthing and respecting the needs of everyone involved in the conflict, it will become easier to find a satisfactory resolution.

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