There are so many sources of conflict in the healthcare environment. It is even more prevalent when you are a nurse and understand how the system should work in your favor.
- You go to the hospital to visit your father. You arrive ten minutes before visiting hours are over. The nurse on the unit advises you that you’ll have to leave in a few minutes. When you protest you just got off work and would like to stay longer, you’re told you have to leave. After all, there are rules!
- You go to the hospital to visit your sister. You ask the nurse for an update on her condition, and are told that HIPAA prevents her from giving you any information.
- You are a patient in the hospital. You’ve put on your light for attention and wait a long time for it to be answered. When the nurse’s aide comes, you express your anger at the wait. She tells you that you are just one of many people she has to take care of, and you should get a private duty nurse if you want more immediate attention.
The ability of the nursing staff to handle conflict has a direct impact on your satisfaction as a patient or family member.
Organizations are increasingly looking at how to create patient centered and family centered care models. With reimbursement tied to patient satisfaction, hospitals are becoming a lot more attentive to patients. Patient satisfaction surveys, efforts to make sure people are happy are on the rise.
But is it possible to wipe out dissatisfaction and conflict? The Center for American Nurses conducted a conflict resolution survey to identify challenges related to conflict encountered by the professional RN. A total of 858 nurses responded to both open-ended and closed-ended items in a web-based survey.
Sources of Conflict in the Healthcare Environment
The most common and problematic type of conflict that was experienced in the workplace involved conflicts between people. The three prime situations of interpersonal conflicts frequently identified in the survey included (1) patient and family, (2) nurse manager, and (3) physician. Conflict involving nurses and patients/families/visitors was reported to occur as a result of the disparity in perceptions regarding which patient-care issue needed to be addressed first, limiting visiting hours, and restrictions surrounding disclosure of confidential information.
Nurses usually do not receive much if any education on how to resolve conflicts. The study found that nurses often use avoidance to handle conflict: they avoid the person who has engaged them in conflict. This may result in a patient not receiving the attention she needs.
Advice for Nurses Who are Also Patients
Speak up. If the nurse has presented a barrier to what you need, ask politely how you can resolve the conflict. Explain how you perceive the issue. Explore ways to negotiate a compromise so you get what you need without the other person feeling like she has lost.
If you are unable to negotiate with the nurse, go up the chain of command to the nurse’s supervisor to see if you can achieve satisfaction. Recognize that there is often a good rationale behind the position the nurse took, but there may be room for something different to be done to help you get what you need. Don’t shy away from conflict in the healthcare environment – insist of answers and assistance. Don’t be a “good” patient who is afraid to speak up when something is wrong. We know what happens to those patients.