This article is going to talk about conflict resolution in nursing practice.

Because we’re going to face conflict regularly at our jobs and we need to know how to handle it appropriately.

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Nursing is one of the most people-oriented jobs out there, and where there are people, there is going to be conflict.

It’s an unavoidable reality and one that nurses know all too well. What nurses might need help with, however, is how to resolve disputes with intention and respect.

Conflict resolution can help you, and your coworkers avoid unnecessary resentment, anger, and regret.

Resolving an issue not only makes everyone feel better, but it can build more teamwork and trust among colleagues.

Below are some strategies for effective conflict resolution in the nursing field.

Workplace Conflict Resolution in Nursing

1. Confront the Situation

Some people prefer to just look the other way, but conflicts really need to be dealt with as soon as possible.

Just because you’re confronting it doesn’t mean you’re being confrontational or aggressive.

In fact, looking at the scenario head on can bypass any feelings of resentment or regret that might come with avoiding the problem altogether.

Another thing to consider is that your coworkers might be dealing with their own issues outside of the workplace.

This makes it even more important to deal with the conflict right away and try to come to an understanding.

Related: How to Deal with Difficult Nurses at Work

2. Put Yourself in Their Shoes

Speaking of understanding, try your best to put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

Yes, this is an old saying that we’ve all heard since we were kids, but it has stuck around for a reason.

We rarely know the full story of someone right when we meet them. We might even be mistaken or unaware of something our coworkers are facing, and this can make the conflict even worse.

Therefore, take a step back and try to see things from their point of view.

How is their perspective different from your own?

Are there things about the conflict you overlooked, but are extremely important to the other person?

This may seem like a small action step, but it’s critical when it comes to finding a resolution to a conflict.

3. Communicate

As they say, communication is key.

Part of understanding the other person’s side of the story is talking about it. Having an adult conversation is a crucial component to resolving any conflict that takes place in the healthcare field.

For nurses, the issue could be as simple as a misunderstanding or miscommunication.

In other cases, it could be something deeper, such as different priorities or opinions.

Sometimes, we are just resistant to change, and that in itself can be a source of drama and conflict in the workplace.

For nurses, conflict can impact the entire healthcare unit and, thus, the patients. Believe it or not, patients can totally tell if coworkers don’t get along, and that can negatively impact their entire experience.

When communicating, be sure to keep an open mind while you hear the other person out. Let them tell their side of the story, what their thought process was, and how they felt.

Then, you can tell them your side. It’s also crucial to pinpoint where the misunderstanding is, how both parties can fix it, and how they’ll avoid this conflict in the future.

Another note about communication: always opt for speaking face to face. Passive aggressive notes and emails are impersonal and leave way too much open to interpretation.

The other person will probably take it the wrong way, exacerbating the problem.

Try to find the time when you both can sit down and talk to each other, and if that’s not possible, a phone call is the next best step.

4. Have a Mediator

If the idea of confronting the other person face to face is terrifying, consider having a mutual friend or coworker mediate for you.

There’s nothing wrong with having someone by your side who can hold you accountable for resolving the conflict.

The most important thing to remember is that the mediator should remain neutral and completely subjective.

It might even help to have a supervisor mediate. Regardless of who you decide make sure you’re not overstepping the chain of command.

For example, don’t go to your immediate supervisor’s boss if your direct supervisor has not had a chance to get involved.

5. Apologize and Explain How You’ll Do Better

Once all of the communicating is winding down, it’s time to apologize and take ownership of what you’ve done wrong.

If the other person is mostly to blame, it still helps to say sorry for the misunderstanding.

Furthermore, it’s important to explain what you’ll both do to avoid this kind of situation in the future.

What did you learn from this experience? What minor differences in opinion are you going to be more tolerant of?

Be aware that there will always be a variety of opinions and viewpoints in any workplace. The main takeaway here is that you need to pick your battles.

Proper communication ensures that you understand your colleague better and have a more in-depth insight into where they’re coming from.

Make sure that both of you understand what went wrong this time around and why that happened.

Acknowledge that you both have different ways of looking at things and that’s okay. Some things just aren’t worth fighting over.

Brush up on Workplace Procedures

Everyone could afford to look over the employee manual again. This is especially true for nurses who have been in the healthcare field for years.

Medicine is always changing, and because of that, workplace protocol changes, too.

Take some time to flip through the employee handbook and get a feel for the proper workplace procedures.

It’ll be worth it in the long run because you’ll be better prepared to handle conflicts and any snafus that occurs while on the job.

Dive Into Diversity

These days, workplaces are more diverse than ever before. Individuals of all ages, races, genders, and backgrounds are working side by side.

This is a great thing! It can also lead to some misunderstandings and miscommunication on the job.

Embracing diversity at work will help you to become a more compassionate coworker and effective communicator.

You’ll be better able to lead, educate, and converse with your colleagues as well as your patients.

Part of having a healthy workplace is ensuring that everyone has their needs met, and in healthcare, this is critical.

Whether it’s a patient, a coworker, or a supervisor, everyone deserves attention and respect.

Being mindful of cultural diversity and any potential issues that could come up will make you better prepared to tackle day-to-day occurrences.

The steps above outline perfectly what to do when a conflict does show up.


Picture of a white keyboard

Remember, nobody’s perfect. Problems will arise no matter what, so it’s all about being aware of them and being proactive about solving them.

Even the best of intentions can sometimes be met with aggression or be taken the wrong way.

Rather than having those issues fester, take care of them right away.

Not only will this prevent further problems, but it will let the other person know that you care and that you want to make things right.

That goes for if someone does something to anger you, too. Sometimes, you might find yourself on the other side of a conflict, where it was something that someone else did that led to the issues.

The same strategies still apply no matter where you stand in the confrontation. You can even use these steps to help other colleagues who are dealing with a similar situation, so everybody wins.

You’re at work for the majority of the day, so you might as well make it an enjoyable experience!

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