Conflict in the nursing environment is complex. Most nurses experience conflicts such as an angry patient or coworker. De-escalation of conflict reduces tensions, and avoids risks. Academic literature describes techniques like slowing down speech, and using positive language and options. Conflict risks increase when patients, nurses, or others feel they are not being consulted in matters important to them, or they believe they are being treated fairly.
With patient conflict, redirection of the anger by helping them to understand and address the problem is ideal, but not always possible. It is often the case that the conflict is actually related to billing or administration. Nurses providing direct care become the target for all of a patients problems with the healthcare system system. The nurse on the floor becomes a single window for all tensions between the patient and the system.
Conflict between nurses
Microaggression between healthcare professionals is difficult to address. It can be difficult to stay focused when tempers flare between nurses. The result is more than hurt feelings or misunderstood intentions. Results can include poor performance, maladaptive behavior, and a drop in morale. There is no question that nurses who are already stressed are more likely to find themselves involved in a conflict.
The nurse manager
The nurse manager has a challenging role. A target of microaggression, the nurse manager is also responsible for de-escalating conflict with patients and between nurses, while advocating for the unit in relation to senior management. For nurses that are considering advancing their career and taking on a nurse manager role, consider whether you can calmly address the tensions and conflicts on your floor, and ensure that everyone is being treated fairly. It is my hope that more nurses say yes to the question, and take on this challenge.