Conflict Management in Nursing

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Conflict has been an issue for man since the dawn of civilization. In today’s fast paced world conflict, especially in the workplace, is a frequent occurrence. When that workplace is a health care environment where lives are at stake, emotions run high and collaboration with many different disciplines is required conflict often becomes a prevalent part of everyday life. Conflicts in the workplace can lead to reduced morale, lowered productivity resulting in decreased patient care and can cause large scale confrontations (Whitworth 2008). In the field of nursing whether a conflict is with a peer, supervisor, physician, or a patient and their family, conflict management is a necessary skill.
It has been estimated in a study by the American Management Association that managers spend between 20% to as much as 50% of their times dealing with conflict among their employees (American Sentinel, 2012). When workplace conflicts are left unresolved they can lead to dissatisfaction, depression and other problems such as aggression and violence (Whitworth 2008). The negative, sometimes hostile, environment created by unresolved conflict has been recognized to be a hazard not only to staff, but also to patient care (The Joint Commission 2008).
In July, 2008 The Joint Commission found the problems resulting from unresolved conflict serious enough to address the issue with a Sentinel Event Alert. The Joint Commission’s Sentinel Event Alert Issue 40 states:
Intimidating and disruptive behaviors can foster medical errors, contribute to poor patient satisfaction and to preventable adverse outcomes, increase the cost of care, and cause qualified clinicians, administrators and managers to seek new positions in more professional environment...

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The Joint Commission. (2008). Behaviors that undermine a culture of safety. Sentinel Event Alert Issue 40,
Trossman, S. (2011). The art of engagement: Nurses, ANA work to address conflict. American Nurse, 43(5), 1-8.
Vivar, C. G. (2006). Putting conflict management into practice: A nursing case study. Journal of Nursing Management, (14), 201-206.
Whitworth, B. (2008). Is there a relationship between personality type and preferred conflict-handling styles? An exploratory study of registered nurses in southern Mississippi. Journal of Nursing Management, 16(8), 921-932. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2834.2008.00918.x

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