Managing Conflict in Healthcare!

Conflicts do not just arise amongst staff members working in a tertiary care hospital, instead they can arise in any hospital.

They can occur between doctors, nurses or even among doctors and patients. The reason behind conflicts arising between employees had often been attributed to a hostile work environment.

A hostile work environment has been defined as the result of abusive behavior by other employees, supervisors, or physicians. The abuse may take the form of a demeaning attitude, ridicule, off-color jokes, sexual harassment, or even physical violence.

1.While many believe that verbal fights, arguments or violence should be more tolerable than physical abuse, it is quite the opposite. Since there is no evidence of verbal remarks, or verbal abuse unless someone witnesses it, it is often done more frequently than physical abuse. Statistics report that over 1 million workers are assaulted every year in their workplace in the US alone. 1 While this figure is alarming, the reason behind this increased incidence has been attributed to the changing patterns of medical practice which create great stress on the employees.

2. The changes bring about extreme stress as the workload is increased, there are deadlines to meet and protocols to follow which keep the staff under constant pressure. This is why tempers run very high and a small incident may result in severe consequences. While some attribute this to doctors lacking emotional intelligence, it is more than often not that case.

Seeing the rise in these conflicts, several steps have been taken to help resolve this increasing issue of health care conflicts such as providing training to healthcare staff. Educators and trainers in this regard have been deemed essential to be added to every hospital staff to manage and find effective solutions to these conflicts

 3. They are supposed to act as the mediators to help people find common ground and to resolve the reason behind these conflicts.

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4 .suggested the involvement of a team of experts, psychologists or other doctors even, who can manage these conflicts by investigating the exact reason as to why it is occurring, and then respectively come up with interventions. These will be targeted at interpersonal, intragroup, and intergroup levels. These interventions should be designed to reduce conflicts at all levels, and to teach the staff members of ways to handle the conflicts effectively.

This subject should not be handled lightly, instead, to keep patients satisfied and to help keep the doctors working to their optimum this should be addressed immediately. Work should be done towards creating a productive learning environment.

   1.    Ramsay M. A. E. (2001). Conflict in the healthcare workplace. Proceedings (Baylor University. Medical                   Center), 14(2), 138–139.

    2.    Wanless S. MANAGING CONFLICT IN HEALTHCARE. Developing Healthcare Skills Through Simulation.                   2012 Apr 4:208.

    3.    Eason FR, Brown ST. Conflict management: assessing educational needs. Journal for Nurses in                             Professional Development. 1999 May 1;15(3):92-6.

    4.    Afzalur Rahim M. Toward a theory of managing organizational conflict. International journal of conflict               management. 2002 Mar 1;13(3):206-35.

Written by Dr. Aref Alabed ,