Keeping the Peace: 6 Tips for Conflict Resolution in Nursing

Conflict arises from stress. Every workplace has conflict. It should be expected. Understanding how to take conflict and turn into a positive situation, takes intention and practice. Learn these 6 tips for dealing with conflict resolution on your nursing unit. Nurses General Nursing Article

Keeping the Peace: 6 Tips for Conflict Resolution in Nursing

You walk on the unit and can cut the tension with a knife. Everyone looks stressed.

You ask how the day was to be told of multiple admissions, an unexpected death, and bedside procedures that were added at the last minute. This created stress among the nursing staff and now 2 nurses are currently in the manager's office to resolve a dispute.

Conflict in high stress workplaces is inevitable. Nurses are usually strong-willed people and when staff have different goals, ideas, or personal needs, conflict can arise out of just about anything. But, is conflict always bad? Absolutely not! There are some benefits to conflict on the nursing unit.

The Benefits of Conflict

  • Conflict Builds Teams: If conflict is resolved effectively, it can create cohesion among staff. Learning how to communicate effectively, listen well, and compromise creates a great nursing team.
  • Conflict Increases Understanding: If you are open to solving the conflict, you must be willing to listen to the all sides of the story. By listening and understanding opposition, you will have a better understanding of the issue as a whole.
  • Conflict Builds Self-Awareness: When you have conflict with another person, it challenges you to review your goals and expectations. Conflict allows you the time to align your actions with your beliefs.
  • Conflict Leads to Solutions: When something simply does not work, it may be time to change the process. Change on nursing units can be hard.

Change pushes you outside of our comfort zone. But, if you can allow the conflict to create change that leads to solutions, the whole unit will be better for having gone through the conflict.

Conflict can be good. You must understand how to handle it to get the most out of the conflict. Resolving conflict to provide the best solution is not easy. Here are a few tips to help you solve conflict on your nursing unit:

6 Tips for Solving Conflict

1. Treat Others With Respect - No matter how upset you may be about the conflict, show respect to everyone involved. If you are simply not ready to talk, ask for more time. Be courteous and kind when you do speak.

2. Process versus People - Nursing is a high-stress area with lots of processes that will fail as things change. Remember that most problems are actually caused by a process, not the people that carry out the process.

That's not to say that you will never have a conflict with another person, it just means that you need to look at the process first.

3. Listen - Communication in nursing is essential for successful patient outcomes and listening in a big portion of communication. It is just as important when dealing with co-workers and conflict.

Active listening takes practice and skill. Work hard to hear what the other person is saying and work even harder not to speak until they have fully expressed themselves.

4. Think Before You Speak - One of the best ways to put things into perspective is to talk about the conflict with a trusted colleague or family member. When you can be authentic about your feelings without fear of hurting anyone or creating more conflict, you will likely feel better. A little time, space, and lots of reflection can often provide clarity to the situation.

5. Face-to-Face - Most people do not care for conflict. And, once the heated part of the conflict is over, everyone just wants to forget about it and move on. But, without an open, honest face-to-face conversation, conflict will bubble up again.

It is best to plan a face-to-face meeting between all of the parties involved in the conflict. Using an objective mediator, such as the nurse manager or other leader, is always a good idea. They can help guide the conversation and ensure everyone gets their chance to be heard.

6. Apologies Go a Long Way - When you sit down to resolve the conflict, remember that everyone will probably have at least a small part in the bigger problem. When you identify your part in the conflict, simply admit when you were wrong and apologize. You don't have to take blame for everything, just for your own behavior.

Learn, Grow, and Move On

There will always be conflict at work. Stressful work environments create conflict. Remember that there is always good in conflict, if resolved the right way. At the end of the day, all you can do is learn from it, grow so that you handle it better next time, and put your best foot forward for the future.

Have you had a good experience with conflict in nursing? Or, maybe you are in the midst of a struggle that you are not sure how to fix. Share your story below and get the conversation started.

Workforce Development Columnist

Melissa Mills has been a nurse for 20 years. She is a freelance writer, career coach, and owner of She enjoys writing about leadership, careers, lifestyle, and wellness.

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