Unfortunately, conflicts are an integral part of everyday life and the working environment. They regularly occur in all fields of activity as the opinions or decisions of colleagues may not coincide, and the wishes of customers may intentionally or unconditionally not be implemented. Healthcare organizations are not an exception since they always have some form of dispute between their employees. The purpose of this paper is to identify a recurring conflict with the potential to impact patient care and provide details of what happened negatively. Moreover, Finkelman’s four stages of conflict will be reviewed and discussed, and the question of how these stages relate to the provided example will be answered. In addition, the best strategy for conflict resolution and the way to collaborate with a nurse leader to reach a consensus on the deal with the conflict will be described.
Details of the Recurring Conflict
During my practice at Miami hospital setting, I managed to identify a recurring conflict with the potential to impact patient care negatively. As I learned later, this dispute happens in most of the hospitals and is a common situation of misunderstandings and unwillingness to meet a co-worker’s needs. The parties involved in this particular conflict were an advanced practice registered nurse and a physician, and their argument was about whether the nurse could help patients with different problems and requests without the supervision of the doctor. According to Shah (2017), a nurse practitioner is a rather serious profession, and they are involved in more specialized clinical roles, which include prescribing drugs, treating and diagnosing various health conditions, and assessing patients. Moreover, nurse practitioners can even provide guidance on managing different clinical conditions and order diagnostic tests. However, despite the fact that nurse practitioners are allowed and required to undertake various roles, depending on the experience of a particular nurse, it is necessary for a physician to guide and observe his or her actions.
The situation that I have witnessed was based on the unwillingness of the physician to understand the nurse’s worries and requests for his help. The conflict started at the end of the nurse’s night shift; she was ready to go home when the doctor ordered her to assess a patient and assign some diagnostic tests without his supervision. The way the physician started talking to the nurse was rather rude and included inappropriate jokes and words. After she kindly refused to do the tasks independently and asked for the doctor’s presence and help, his word expressions became even ruder. The nurse justified her refusal by feeling unwell after the night shift and being afraid of making a mistake because of her insecurity. Moreover, she was not experienced enough, and in such cases, the presence of a doctor is mandatory (Shah, 2017). That is why her request was right in terms of both law and humanity.
Nevertheless, the physician continued acting and speaking rudely instead of apologizing and agreeing to help the nurse. He was accused of being inhumane, cruel, and inconsiderate of the fact that the nurse practitioner was stressed and tired after the night shift. Finally, she decided to report the problem immediately to the chief clinical officer of the hospital. Although it may seem like the end of the conflict, it was not finished as no appropriate resolution was applied, and the chief clinical officer did not try to solve this issue. Also, it is a common problem for many hospitals, which proves that this is a recurring conflict with the potential to impact patient care negatively.
Four Stages of Conflict as Found in Finkelman
During the first stage of the conflict, all of the involved parties do not realize that there is a brewing conflict that may soon become a real one. In other words, the latent stage means that the conflict has not started yet, but there is a possibility for it to begin (Finkelman, 2016). This situation may happen if employees or groups have some differences in opinions, values, or decisions that bother one or the other, but all of them are not significant enough to cause one side to start the dispute. The escalation of conflict into an actual one depends on the reactions and emotions of the involved people and the strength of their desire to escape it (Finkelman, 2016). Moreover, the reasons for a dispute can exist for an extended period of time without the parties being aware of them, and the conflict may never even emerge and stay at the latent stage.
All four conflict phases are built on and follow one another. The perceived stage is the second one, during which one or all involved parties become aware that something wrong is happening (Finkelman, 2016). Once the issue becomes evident, it is of vital importance to take the time to understand the mistakes, clarify what did not go right, and try to think of appropriate decisions to make. However, a dispute may appear even when there was no latent stage and result from the parties’ misunderstandings of the exact position of each other (Finkelman, 2016). Improving communication between the groups may help to resolve such conflicts.
Conflict personalization is the mechanism that makes a person involved in a dispute to be concerned with its dysfunctions. Precisely during this stage, the involved parties not only know about the conflict but also feel it, which may cause rather significant stress, tension, anger, and anxiety (Finkelman, 2016). The argument starts to develop fast and may have consequences in the organization; if this phase begins, it becomes rather challenging to resolve the conflict without any aftermaths (Finkelman, 2016). A possible way of ending the dispute at this stage is to avoid and ignore it and let the parties express their feelings and become relaxed. However, this is not always the right decision since avoidance does not solve but covers the problem (Finkelman, 2016). The better way is to add trust and freedom into the relationships between the involved parties, organize a meeting so that they could discuss all the bothering issues, and help them to find an appropriate solution.
Manifest conflict is the final stage that can either be constructive or destructive. It is the phase when people who are not a part of the dispute may be asked to assess its reasons, define what is wrong and right, and help to find a solution. The destructive outcome includes avoiding those who are involved in the argument, ignoring and denying the conflict, and the necessity of dealing with it. The constructive outcome includes proactive actions, encouragement to find a solution, and the expression of mutual positive emotions.
Stages of the Described Conflict
In the described conflict, there were three stages: latent, perceived and felt. The first one started long ago because the physician and the nurse had different opinions on the process and rules of their work. The second stage began when they both realized they were not satisfied with each other’s performance and demands, and it quickly turned into the third phase as they began to feel stressed and angry. There was no fourth stage as the conflict was never solved.
The Best Strategy for Conflict Resolution
The best strategy for conflict resolution is to understand its reasons and eliminate them one by one. Particularly in this dispute, there was a biased attitude of the doctor and mutual misunderstanding that became the roots of the argument. It is necessary to have some meetings with all employees of the hospital and explain to them that only behavior appropriate for the working environment is accepted and rudeness is forbidden (Forbat & Barclay, 2019). Moreover, the safety of the patients is the hospital’s prerogative, so if any medical worker has some doubts about his or her qualification or experience, the help of co-workers has to be provided. In addition, it is essential to unite with the nurse leader and ask for his or her help in solving the problem (Kim et al., 2017). He or she should explain to the nurses their rights and obligations and tell them that he or she is ready to help them at any time.
To draw a conclusion, one may say that arguments are a rather severe and integral part of the working environment. This experience has taught me that one should always be ready for unexpected stress and events and be aware of his or her rights in order to protect them. At work, it is necessary to be willing to help one’s co-workers, even if it is not one’s obligation. In healthcare, the lives of patients depend on the work of medical employees; that is why it is of vital importance to develop mutual understanding, aid, and trust. In the future, I will be able to deal with conflicts more effectively because I have learned the stages of conflict and that it is crucial to solve them as soon as possible.
Finkelman, A. (2016). Leadership and management for nurses. Boston, MA: Pearson.
Forbat, L., & Barclay, S. (2019). Reducing healthcare conflict: Outcomes from using the conflict management framework. Archives of disease in childhood, 104(4), 328-332.
Kim, S., Bochatay, N., Relyea-Chew, A., Buttrick, E., Amdahl, C., Kim, L.,… & Lee, Y. M. (2017). Individual, interpersonal, and organizational factors of healthcare conflict: A scoping review. Journal of interprofessional care, 31(3), 282-290.
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), 44-46.