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Nursing:
Starting A Career

Dealing with conflict effectively

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CONFLICT IS AN INEVITABLE PART of any school or work environment, and you need to be prepared to deal with it as it arises. Conflicts commonly arise from different beliefs, values, perceptions, or expectations.

As a nurse, you'll be working in a high-stress environment. You may have conflicts with a nursing colleague, health care provider, family member, member of the support staff—or even a patient. When a conflict arises, assess the problem and determine what outcome you're seeking. While the situation is occurring, try to actively listen to the discussion; avoid the impulse to respond until you know all the details. Being an active listener will help you avoid confrontation and choose the best strategy to resolve the conflict. Here are some options:

Competition is a win-lose approach that forces the conflict. Sometimes it's the only strategy that will achieve the necessary change, as in an emergency when you don't have time to disagree or haggle over opinions. Use this assertive, autocratic style when other strategies have failed and someone has to take charge.

Accommodation is a lose-win strategy that you can use to preserve relationships. This strategy tries to resolve conflict by giving in to the other person, neglecting your own needs.

Avoidance is a lose-lose strategy that sometimes is appropriate, such as when you back away from a heated argument. This strategy is unassertive and uncooperative and just postpones the inevitable, but you may use it when you want to delay the discussion until you and the other person have had time to calm down and can be more constructive.

Compromise is a win-lose/lose-win technique, a give-and-take style of conflict management. It satisfies each person's objectives and is a good way to gain a temporary settlement.

Collaboration is a win-win approach. This is the strategy to use to maintain objectives that are agreeable to everyone.

Source: Nursing Student Success made Incredibly Easy!, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2005.

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.

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