Learning to mutually resolve disagreements is a necessary skill for many aspects of life. The workplace is no exception, so conflict resolution is particularly important for healthcare providers. Many issues can be diffused, or avoided entirely, when utilizing this acquired skill set. It all starts with effective communication, an essential tool for any nurse.

Benefits of Conflict Management Skills

Many seasoned nurses are highly valued for their ability to calmly handle conflict. The recent journal article titled “Keeping the Peace” describes the numerous benefits of conflict resolution. Author Mary Johansen, Ph.D., RN, NE-BC, writes, “Handling conflicts in an efficient and effective manner results in improved quality, patient safety, and staff morale, and limits work stress for the caregiver. The nurse manager must approach this challenge thoughtfully because it involves working relationships that are critical for the unit to function effectively — the nurse and other members of the interdisciplinary healthcare team who must collaborate while navigating responsibilities and roles that often overlap.”

The article goes on to highlight potential negative effects of improper communication techniques, stressing the importance of conflict resolution: “Effective resolution and management of a conflict requires clear communication and a level of understanding of the perceived areas of disagreement. Conflict resolution is an essential element of a healthy work environment because a breakdown in communication and collaboration can lead to increased patient errors.”

Communication Is Key

Keep in mind that while conflict may feel uncomfortable, dealing with it appropriately promotes a healthy workplace. Openly expressing concerns and addressing issues head on provides opportunities for improvement.

The Journal of Oncology PracticePut Conflict Resolution Skills to Work” article states, “Although confrontation is especially hard for those who are just starting out, or those who are not in positions of authority, avoiding it is a common human trait.” The article examines the work of consultant Stanley Wachs, Ph.D., who teaches many helpful strategies for handling workplace conflict. Some of his teachings include being mindful of language used, being careful not to label others, having management step up to mediate, and using clear and neutral communication.

Bullying in Nursing

Workplace bullying, and other issues facing nurses today, can be avoided with proper conflict resolution intervention. This topic has come into the spotlight due to transparent discussions among healthcare professionals.

A Nurse.com article speaks to this heavily weighted issue, saying “Nursing is based on collaborative relationships between nurses and other healthcare professionals. The way nurses maintain relationships and resolve conflicts are two of the most important skills in nursing today. ‘While we like to think that nurse bullying isn’t happening, it is a major issue, both in nurse satisfaction and patient safety,’ Elaine Foster, Ph.D., MSN, RN, associate dean of American Sentinel’s graduate nursing programs, said in the release. ‘Advanced education and good leadership skills help prevent this behavior in hospitals and healthcare organizations,’ she added. Nurse leadership training emphasizes the importance of collaboration and the crucial role that each member of a team plays in making a difference in the lives of patients.”

Learn Conflict Resolution Skills in an RN to BSN Program

New nurses have a unique opportunity to learn effective conflict resolution early in their profession. The online RN to BSN program at Nevada State College provides courses with this crucial goal in mind, incorporating many educational projects aimed at improving students’ communication skills. Nurses with this type of experience will be better prepared for workplace conflict resolution, when needed throughout their healthcare career.

Conflict may feel awkward and uncomfortable to many, especially when it occurs in the workplace. However, learning to diffuse and resolve confrontational situations leads to more productive discussions and improved solutions to many issues. Keeping communication neutral and clear benefits all parties involved, and above all, maintains patient safety.

Learn more about the Nevada State College online RN to BSN program.


Nurse.com: New Blog Series Explores Nursing Conflict Resolution Skills

Nursing Management: Keeping the Peace: Conflict Management Strategies for Nurse Managers

NCBI: Put Conflict Resolution Skills to Work