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Posted: December 15th, 2022

Role of Nurse Leaders in Solving Conflicts in Clinical Settings

Role of Nurse Leaders in Solving Conflicts in Clinical Settings

Nursing is a profession that involves working with diverse people in various situations. Conflicts are inevitable in any workplace, but they can be especially challenging in healthcare settings where patient safety and quality of care are at stake. Nurse leaders play a vital role in managing and resolving conflicts among staff, patients, families and other healthcare professionals. In this blog post, we will explore the types, causes and effects of conflicts in nursing, and how nurse leaders can use effective strategies to prevent and resolve them.

Types of Conflicts in Nursing

Conflicts can be classified into three main types: issue-based, personality-based and value-based.

Issue-based conflicts occur when there is a disagreement about how to handle a problem or situation. For example, two nurses may have different opinions on the best course of treatment for a patient, or a nurse may disagree with a doctor’s order. Issue-based conflicts are usually easier to resolve than other types of conflicts, as they can be solved by clarifying the facts, finding common ground and compromising.

Personality-based conflicts arise when there is a clash of personal styles, preferences or behaviors. For example, a nurse may find another nurse’s communication style too aggressive or too passive, or a nurse may feel annoyed by another nurse’s habits or mannerisms. Personality-based conflicts are often harder to resolve than issue-based conflicts, as they involve emotions and perceptions that are not easily changed.

Value-based conflicts stem from differences in beliefs, values or ethics. For example, a nurse may have a moral objection to a certain procedure or policy, or a nurse may have a different cultural or religious background than another nurse or patient. Value-based conflicts are the most difficult to resolve, as they challenge one’s identity and worldview.

Causes of Conflicts in Nursing

Conflicts in nursing can be caused by various factors, such as:

– Stress: Nursing is a stressful profession that requires dealing with complex and demanding situations. Stress can impair one’s judgment, communication and emotional regulation, leading to conflicts.
– Workload: Nurses often face heavy workloads that can affect their performance, satisfaction and well-being. Workload can create conflicts when nurses feel overwhelmed, underappreciated or unsupported by their colleagues or managers.
– Role ambiguity: Nurses may experience role ambiguity when their roles and responsibilities are unclear or conflicting. Role ambiguity can create confusion, frustration and resentment among nurses and other healthcare professionals.
– Power imbalance: Nurses may encounter power imbalance when they have unequal authority, influence or resources compared to others. Power imbalance can create conflicts when nurses feel intimidated, oppressed or exploited by those who have more power, or when nurses abuse their power over those who have less.
– Diversity: Nurses work with diverse people who have different backgrounds, cultures, values and perspectives. Diversity can enrich the nursing profession, but it can also create conflicts when nurses lack awareness, respect or understanding of the differences.

Effects of Conflicts in Nursing

Conflicts in nursing can have negative effects on individuals, teams and organizations, such as:

– Reduced productivity: Conflicts can distract nurses from their tasks and reduce their efficiency and effectiveness.
– Lowered quality of care: Conflicts can compromise patient safety and quality of care by causing errors, delays or omissions.
– Decreased satisfaction: Conflicts can lower nurses’ satisfaction with their work and their colleagues, leading to burnout, turnover or absenteeism.
– Damaged relationships: Conflicts can damage trust, cooperation and collaboration among nurses and other healthcare professionals.
– Impaired morale: Conflicts can create a negative work environment that affects the morale and motivation of nurses and other staff.

Strategies for Solving Conflicts in Nursing

Nurse leaders can use various strategies to prevent and resolve conflicts in nursing, such as:

– Promoting a culture of respect: Nurse leaders can foster a culture of respect by modeling positive behaviors, setting clear expectations and norms, providing feedback and recognition, and addressing issues promptly and fairly.
– Enhancing communication: Nurse leaders can improve communication by encouraging open dialogue, active listening and constructive feedback among staff. They can also use communication tools such as SBAR (Situation-Background-Assessment-Recommendation) to facilitate clear and concise information exchange.
– Developing emotional intelligence: Nurse leaders can develop emotional intelligence by enhancing their self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy and social skills. They can also help their staff develop these skills through training, coaching and mentoring.
– Applying conflict resolution styles: Nurse leaders can apply different conflict resolution styles depending on the situation and the desired outcome. The five main styles are:

– Avoiding: This style involves avoiding or withdrawing from the conflict. It is appropriate when the conflict is trivial or when there is no chance of winning or resolving it.
– Accommodating: This style involves giving in or sacrificing one’s own interests for the sake of others. It is appropriate when the relationship is more important than the issue or when one is wrong or has less power.
– Competing: This style involves asserting or imposing one’s own interests over others. It is appropriate when the issue is urgent or critical or when one has more power or expertise.
– Compromising: This style involves finding a middle ground or a mutually acceptable solution. It is appropriate when the issue is moderately important or when there is a balance of power or a time constraint.
– Collaborating: This style involves working together to find a win-win solution that satisfies everyone’s interests. It is appropriate when the issue is complex or important or when there is a high level of trust and cooperation.

– Implementing conflict management models: Nurse leaders can implement conflict management models that provide a systematic and structured approach to resolving conflicts. Some examples of conflict management models are:

– Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI): This model assesses one’s preferred conflict resolution style based on two dimensions: assertiveness and cooperativeness. It helps one identify their strengths and weaknesses and choose the most appropriate style for different situations.
– Interest-Based Relational Approach (IBR): This model focuses on finding a solution that meets the underlying interests and needs of both parties, rather than their positions or demands. It involves four steps: separating people from the problem, focusing on interests rather than positions, generating options for mutual gain, and using objective criteria to evaluate options.
– Conflict Resolution Network (CRN): This model provides 12 skills for resolving conflicts, such as clarifying expectations, acknowledging emotions, listening actively, expressing feelings, negotiating needs, managing stress and mediating disputes.


Conflicts in nursing are inevitable, but they can be managed and resolved effectively by nurse leaders who have the knowledge, skills and attitudes to handle them. By applying the strategies discussed in this blog post, nurse leaders can create a collaborative and respectful work environment that enhances patient care and staff satisfaction.

Works Cited

– Trusted Health. “Conflict In Nursing: Types, Strategies, and Resolutions.” Trusted Health Blog, 29 July 2022, https://www.trustedhealth.com/blog/conflict-resolution-in-nursing. Accessed 15 Sep 2023.
– American Nurses Association. “Leadership in Nursing: Qualities & Why It Matters.” ANA, https://www.nursingworld.org/practice-policy/nursing-excellence/leadership-in-nursing/. Accessed 15 Sep 2023.
– Texas A&M International University. “Conflict Resolution for Nurse Administrators.” TAMIU Online, https://online.tamiu.edu/articles/msn/conflict-resolution-for-nurse-administrators.aspx. Accessed 15 Sep 2023.
– University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences. “Breaking Down Nursing Management Roles.” USAHS, https://www.usa.edu/blog/nursing-leadership-and-management/. Accessed 15 Sep 2023.
– Alshahrani, Abdullah et al. “Attributes, skills and actions of clinical leadership in nursing as perceived by nurses: A scoping review.” BMJ Leader, vol. 0, no. 0, 2023, pp. 1-11. https://bmjleader.bmj.com/content/early/2023/01/24/leader-2022-000672

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