Resolving Conflict in Nursing: Strategies for Positive Communication

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Conflict is an aspect of any workplace, and the nursing profession is no different. Within this field, conflicts can arise among nurses, physicians, patients, and their families due to the teams and high-stress environments. However, employing communication strategies can play a role in both preventing and resolving conflicts within the nursing profession. This article explores approaches that can help cultivate communication within healthcare settings.

Understanding the Origins of Conflict

Conflicts in nursing often emerge from disparities in opinions, priorities, or values. Stressful situations such as increased workload or time pressure can also contribute to conflict. Additionally, miscommunication resulting from language barriers or misunderstandings may further escalate conflicts. Recognizing these sources of conflict is crucial in finding resolutions and promoting effective communication in nursing.

Active Listening

Active listening serves as a skill that promotes positive communication within a nursing team. It entails focusing on the speaker and demonstrating empathy while refraining from interrupting or formulating responses. By listening, nurses gain an understanding of their colleague’s perspectives and concerns, fostering improved collaboration and conflict resolution.

Open and Respectful Communication

Creating an environment where open and respectful communication is encouraged establishes a foundation for managing conflicts. It is vital for nurses to feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and concerns without apprehension regarding judgment or retaliation. Using open and respectful language creates an environment of respect where everyone’s contributions are valued.

Avoid Making Assumptions

In high-stress situations, jumping to conclusions based on assumptions can quickly escalate conflicts. Instead, nurses should practice clarifying assumptions by asking questions before forming opinions or taking action.

Maintaining Calmness under Pressure

Nursing often involves dealing with charged circumstances where tensions run high. In situations where conflict resolution is crucial, nurses should respond rationally. By keeping their emotions in check, nurses can think clearly and find solutions.

Seeking Mediation

When confronted with conflicts that cannot be resolved directly between the parties, seeking mediation from a neutral individual can be beneficial. A mediator facilitates dialogue, allowing both parties to express themselves and work towards an acceptable resolution.

Collaborative Problem Solving

Collaborative problem-solving is a strategy for resolving conflicts in nursing. It entails bringing all individuals involved in the conflict and encouraging them to work as equals toward finding a solution. This approach promotes teamwork, strengthens relationships, and ultimately enhances primary care.

Implementing Conflict Resolution Models

There are conflict resolution models that can guide nurses in effectively resolving conflicts.

One model used is the Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI), which presents five approaches: competing, accommodating, avoiding, compromising, and collaborating. Familiarizing oneself with these approaches can assist nurses in selecting the method for each unique situation.

Reflecting on Personal Communication Styles

Taking time for self-reflection is crucial in improving communication skills. Nurses should critically examine their communication styles. Identify any weaknesses or biases that could contribute to conflicts. By focusing on growth, nurses can become more aware of what triggers them and develop strategies to manage these triggers effectively.

Ongoing Professional Development 

Engaging in professional development is beneficial for nurses as it provides valuable resources to enhance communication skills. Attending workshops or training programs that specifically focus on conflict resolution techniques can equip nurses with skills in their daily practice.

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