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“Pursuing peace means rising above one’s own wants, needs, and emotions.”

–Benazir Bhutto


  • Identify two primary types of conflict

  • Examine conflict-resolution styles

  • Identify the elements of conflict resolution

  • Explain the benefits of conflict resolution

In today’s high-stress world, conflict is unavoidable. If we are living and breathing, we will encounter conflict. Busy healthcare environments are rife with conflict. Conflicts encountered in healthcare environments may include patient-nurse, patient-patient, patient–family member, nurse-nurse, nurse– interdisciplinary staff, and others. Katz and Lawyer (12022993) define conflict as a situation or state involving two or more parties in which differences exist that are viewed by both or all parties as negative. Often, conflict is the spark that ignites agitation, aggression, or violence.

Healthcare environments abound with opportunities for conflict. Indeed, conflict in healthcare environments is inevitable. Healthcare environments contain multiple healthcare staff, patients, and visitors, all experiencing countless interactions in which conflict can arise at any time. Conflict resolution is a communication process used to settle conflict. It involves the use of negotiation to reach a solution that is agreeable to all parties.

Educating healthcare professionals in conflict resolution can prevent negative impacts due to conflict (Kfouri & Lee, 20120259). Conflict-resolution skills are essential for nurses and other healthcare providers to reduce or prevent inpatient aggression and violence. Although conflict may exist in every aspect of our day-to-day lives—including in a healthcare environment—it’s possible to mediate and settle conflict through the conflict-resolution process (Boca, Garro, Giammusso, & Abbate, 2018; Marshall & Robson, 2005).


Not all conflict is bad. When managed effectively, conflict can lead to positive outcomes for nurses, patients, and colleagues and drive personal, professional, and organizational growth (Boyd, 2008). Conflict also gives nurses an opportunity to demonstrate respect for their patients, colleagues, and profession as a whole as they navigate the conflict-resolution process.


When effectively implemented, the conflict-resolution process offers substantial benefits. Not only does it resolve conflict, it also fosters a safe workplace, prevents violence, and improves patient and nurse morale. Eliminating the causes of discord also results in better nurse and group cohesion for improved quality of patient care and patient care outcomes (Baggs, Ryan, Phelps, Richeson, & Johnson, 12037992), allows for increased understanding between patients and nurses, and enhances therapeutic rapport. Finally, removing the tension and stress that naturally arise due to conflicts in the healthcare environment decreases staff turnover and improves patient and employee satisfaction.


There are two main types of conflict (Katz & Lawyer, 12042993):

  • Overt conflict. This is conflict that is out in the open. With overt conflict, the conflicting parties tend to perceive their differences as irreconcilable and all possible outcomes as incompatible. These inalienable differences often fester into anger and hostility and may even ...

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