Nurse Conflict Resolution Strategies

In the care delivery setting, a mother was horrified to see a nurse attending to her with a single glove that was already dirty. The nurse never changed the gloves even after they were smeared with blood and lost their color completely. This was a new nurse at the reception. She later explained to the senior nurse her experience. She had gone to the store to collect more gloves but there was nothing. The senior nurse responded to her in a harsh tone, “that was your incompetence. You should have looked for it early enough.” (Finkelman, 2012). The new nurse kept quiet but her facial expressions told she was upset. The senior nurse did not take any action to prevent such a mess in future although she was responsible for ordering the new stock of gloves and other apparatus. The new nurse did not report the case to the manager in fear of being harassed by senior employees (Finkelman, 2012).

This conflict was not resolved because the senior nurse never reacted adequately towards the incident hence she did not take necessary action. She had to ensure that the gloves were supplied in time. If the store person was the one who never ordered the gloves in time, the new nurse should have reported this to her senior colleague. Inaction of a senior nurse is a clear indication that the problem has not been resolved. Further, the senior nurse never acknowledged her mistake and was unfair to her colleague (Finkelman, 2012). Knowing that it was her fault, she had to apologize to the new nurse. She never apologized, which could have resolved the conflict but instead it was rather building up (Finkelman, 2012).

Delegation of duties was not an issue in the case because the tasks were well assigned and it was clear that the senior nurse had the responsibility of ensuring available inventory (Finkelman, 2012). She was also expected to collaborate with the store person to prevent stock shortages. She was further expected to cooperate with the new nurse and assist her at any point (Finkelman, 2012).


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The Type of Conflict Identified

The type conflict identified in this case is individual because it has occurred between the two nurses expected to be working together (Weiss & Tappen, 2014). Precisely, it is a role conflict. There is incompatibility between the roles expected of the senior nurse. She does not understand her roles, which makes the work of a new nurse more stressful. Consequently, the patient does not get decent care she deserves and the new nurse is confused about her roles. She rushes to the store to collect the gloves, which is the duty of the senior nurse, who should have organized the stock in advance. (Finkelman, 2012)

The decision to choose this conflict is based on how well the roles are defined. It is noticeable that the senior nurse does not clearly understand her roles (Weiss & Tappen, 2014). Analysis of the outcome in a given case makes it clear that the senior nurse is not fully aware of her duties. Instead she blames the fault on the new.

Four Stages of Conflict

Conflict development is a process. Through a critical analysis it has been established that given conflict has four stages of development. The first stage is latent conflict. This phase entails conflict anticipation. At this stage, the conflict can manifest in the parties’ competition for resources or in a significantly inadequate communication between individuals (Weiss & Tappen, 2014). Tension is high between the conflicting parts. Staff members are already worried about the tasks ahead of them and many thoughts cross their minds. Conflict anticipation takes place when one party has a feeling that the co-partner is incompetent or does not perform his or her roles as expected, which affects one’s work (Kelly, Vottero, & Christie-McAuliffe, 2014). The tension between the new and the senior nurse began when the new nurse experienced the shortage of gloves due to the failure of the senior nurse to order more stock in advance.

The second stage starts when the conflict becomes apparent. Here, it should be acknowledged that a conflict has emanated from particular groups in the workplace. Although the conflict is felt, it may not be a subject of discussion. Acknowledging a conflict is essential as it determines its presence and provides insights and tips on how it can be resolved (Cowen & Moorhead, 2014). In a given case, if a manager acknowledges the conflict between the senior and the new nurse, it will be resolved whereas a failure to do this will result in a long presence of the conflict (Finkelman, 2012).

The third stage of a conflict development is when it is felt, which happens when the parties involved begin to develop the feelings of anger, hatred or anxiety towards one another. Consequently, other staff members share the stress related to this conflict. At this stage, avoidance technique may prevent the conflict from escalating to the final stage. However, avoidance will not resolve the conflict rather provide a cover up (Cowen & Moorhead, 2014). Under such circumstance, the conflict may erupt again in a more complex manner and will be rather difficult to resolve it. The levels of trust exhibited by the participating parties play a key role here. The extent to which they believe that the conflict will be solved is important in regaining the state of trust among one another (Cowen & Moorhead, 2014). The staff members should be more comfortable sharing their feelings with one another. In this case, the new nurse is already upset and we can predict that the next time this repeats she will burst in anger. She is already stressed because of the conflict between her and the senior nurse. Avoidance would only work here if the senior nurse realized her sluggishness and apologized. Otherwise, this conflict could better be resolved through other means (Kelly, Vottero, & Christie-McAuliffe, 2014).

The fourth stage is the manifestation of a conflict in an explicit form. At this stage the conflict is either destructive or constructive. Destructive conflict manifests in such behaviors as avoiding one another, forming negative attitudes towards a colleague, failure to acknowledge a problem and failure to adhere to policies (Sullivan, 2013). Constructive conflict entails encouragement and problem resolution, willingness to develop one another’s careers and expression of positive feelings towards one another. In this case, the conflict is likely to be destructive as it manifests in the feelings of anger experienced by the new nurse towards the senior nurse hence if possible the new nurse will avoid working with the senior nurse (Sullivan, 2013).

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Strategies to Resolve the Conflict

Conflicts are inevitable within the workplace. Therefore, as a manager, one should establish strategies that will help prevent such conflicts from interfering with organizational productivity (Sullivan, 2013). First, a manager should empower his or her employees, which entails sharing power with the employees. For example, it means encouraging collaborative decision making when dealing with the issues (Sullivan, 2013). It gives employees the power to decide how certain issues should be handled in the presence of the manager. These issues mostly include conflicts amongst the staff. Therefore, the staff should be empowered based on the well outlined procedures or policies otherwise it might lead to conflicts. An example of such policies is the Nurses’ Act (Sullivan, 2013).

The second strategy is recognizing personal feelings. As a nurse manager, one must keep calm and self-regulate own behavior once realized that a staff member is expressing hostility towards you or colleagues. Call him or her aside and try to discuss the matter (Sullivan, 2013).

Thirdly, a manager should avoid intimidating or coercing his her subordinates. When people are forced, they comply with the demands only temporarily, which might soon become the worst conflict than ever. Moreover, the same problem will resume after some time and become even more complicated (Sullivan, 2013).

The fourth strategy is focusing on the problem rather than the staff members involved. Unfortunately, in many workplaces, there are members already perceived as “problematic” and even in the event of a small problem, the manager is likely to develop biased attitudes towards that employee. This should not be the case. Therefore, a manager should get to the root of the conflict and facilitate open discussions aimed at resolving the conflict (Weiss & Tappen, 2014).

The fifth strategy is maintaining open channels of communication. This implies allowing the conflicting parties to express their views about the conflict emphasizing where they think their rights were infringed (Sullivan, 2013). Further, this strategy requires listening to them carefully and encouraging suggesting a solution to the conflict. If they fail to generate a solution, a supervisor or mediator should suggest the best resolution to the problem and have them agree to that decision.

Was Delegation an Issue in the Conflict?

Delegation was not an issue in the conflict because the tasks were well assigned and it was clear that the senior nurse had the responsibility of ensuring available inventory. In particular, the senior nurse was expected to collaborate with the store person to prevent stock shortages as well as cooperate with the new nurse and assist her at any point. However, in my opinion, the responsibility of acquiring medical supplies should have been delegated to the manager or other senior employee rather than a nurse, who has the responsibility of attending to the patients.

In the case I encountered at a work place, I would explain to the nurse manager whatever I witnessed. I would then suggest to him or her to call both nurses at different times to discuss the problems they may be having with their duties. Since the conflict was started by the senior nurse, I would ask the nurse manager to remind her the roles she should be performing in a polite way. I would also advise him or her to encourage the two members to collaborate and work as a team.

I chose this resolution strategy based on the nature of the conflict. Since it is an individual conflict, the best way to address it is to talk with the individuals involved personally.


Noteworthy, this conflict can be described as the most recurring especially when one member of the staff is new at a work place. Senior members usually take time to teach them and accept as a part of the team. In order to resolve this conflict, I would organize routine parties whenever a new staff member was introduced to a team to give employees a chance to meet and socialize with the new colleague. Consequently, this would help them accept the new member faster and avoid such a conflict.

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