• You go to the hospital to visit your father. You arrive ten minutes before visiting hours are over. The nurse on the unit advises you that you’ll have to leave in a few minutes. When you protest you just got off work and would like to stay longer, you’re told you have to leave.
• You go to the hospital to visit your sister. You ask the nurse for an update on her condition, and are told that HIPAA prevents her from giving you any information.
• You are a patient in the hospital. You’ve put on your light for attention and wait a long time for it to be answered. When the nurse’s aide comes, you express your anger at the wait.
The ability of the nursing staff to handle conflict has a direct impact on your satisfaction as a patient or family member. Organizations are increasingly looking at how to create patient centered and family centered care models. In 2009, the Center for American Nurses conducted a conflict resolution survey to identify challenges related to conflict encountered by the professional RN. A total of 858 nurses responded to both open-ended and closed-ended items in a web-based survey. The most common and problematic type of conflict that was experienced in the workplace involved conflicts between people. The three prime situations of interpersonal conflicts frequently identified in the survey included (1) patient and family, (2) nurse manager, and (3) physician. Conflict involving nurses and patients/families/visitors was reported to occur as a result of the disparity in perceptions regarding which patient-care issue needed to be addressed first, limiting visiting hours, and restrictions surrounding disclosure of confidential information.
Nurses usually do not receive much if any education on how to resolve conflicts. The study found that nurses often use avoidance to handle conflict: they avoid the person who has engaged them in conflict. This may result in a patient not receiving the attention she needs.
Advice for patients
Speak up. If the nurse has presented a barrier to what you need, ask politely how you can resolve the conflict. Explain how you perceive the issue. Explore ways to negotiate a compromise so you get what you need without the other person feeling like she has lost.
If you are unable to negotiate with the nurse, go up the chain of command to the nurse’s supervisor to see if you can achieve satisfaction. Recognize that there is often a good rationale behind the position the nurse took, but there may be room for something different to be done to help you get what you need.
Parts of this article come from this article: Learn more about conflict resolution in an article written by Mary L. Johansen, who is an assistant clinical professor at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, College of Nursing in Newark, N.J. Learn how conflict between nurses and physicians can harm you as a patient.