The Stages of Conflict

Conflict is regarded as one of the most common difficulties in any company, particularly in the care delivery sector, where there are constant human interactions. Nurses play a variety of responsibilities, including educators, supervisors, and caregivers. Nurses have diverse forms of interactions with other team members in their environment due to the varying number of positions, which increases the likelihood of disputes involving them. One of the most common confrontations involves nurses and physicians. A recent example of a conflict I experienced between a doctor and a nurse took place in the ward where a patient with a history of allergies to some medicine and a constant visitor to the institution had been admitted. The physician had ordered the nurse to give the patient the medication at mid-day. However, as the nurse was about to administer the drug, she realized that the drugs had some substances that could react with the body of the patient. Since she was well informed about the medical history of the patient, the nurse made a call to the physician to make clarifications, but the doctor was not available. The nurse decided not to give the patient any medicine until the doctor returned despite knowing the physician would have reacted negatively as she had learned from experience.

On returning, the nurse explained the situation to the doctor who was very angry and shouted at the nurse telling her she is below him and therefore should follow instructions without questioning. He also added that the nurse was trying to compete with him and show off to her colleagues, which put the life of the patient in danger. Further, he said he had already given the patient medicine which would have stopped the allergy since the current medication was not effective in treating the illness. The nurse was very ashamed and angry for being corrected in front of her colleagues and being made inferior, yet she felt her reasons were justified. She, in turn, retorted by saying she was a human being and a professional with a sound mind and could make decisions on her own when she realizes there is an error that could adversely affect the health of a patient. She also added that she knew her patient better and hence her opinion, concerns and actions were genuine. The confrontation ended when the nurse leader arrived and told the two to solve the issue in the office, which the physician objected and left. The fact that the physician left the scene without coming to a consensus with the nurse means the conflict was not solved.

The Stages of Conflict

According to Finkelman (2016), the conflict development process has four steps namely latent conflict, perceived conflict, felt conflict and manifest conflict. Latent conflict stage involves anticipation of the conflict, which results in tension. The main predictors of conflict at this juncture include poor communication and inadequate resources leading to competition (Finkelman, 2016). This stage relates to the scenario above in that the nurse and physician could have had a strained relationship, which could have resulted to the anticipation of the conflict. The second stage of conflict is perceived conflict in which there is awareness or recognition that there exists a conflict at a particular time. Perception helps in knowing if there is a dispute in the real sense, understanding what is known about that conflict and knowing how best it can be solved(Finkelman, 2016). This stage relates to the scenario in that the nurse knew that the physician could have reacted negatively as she had learned from experience. Hence, the two could be having a degree of awareness that there is a conflict that exists between them.

The third stage is the felt conflict. In this stage, individuals begin to feel anger and anxiety among other feelings(Finkelman, 2016). At this stage, members of staff experience stress also experience stress. Application of the best method of conflict resolution at this stage may prevent the conflict from progressing to the next level. However, poor or inadequate resolving of the conflict may increase chances of the conflict reoccurring and become more complicated. In the example above the nurse could be feeling anger and anxiety since she knew the physician always reacted negatively to any suggestions or actions done without his approval. The last stage of conflict is the manifest conflict stage in this level; the conflict has already manifested itself in a particular way such as a quarrel or a confrontation (Finkelman, 2016). This stage relates to the scenario above in that the nurse and the physician were involved in a quarrel.

The type of conflict in the above example is manifest conflict. The reason for terming the conflict between the nurse and the physician as manifest is that this kind of conflict is usually open and can be observed just as was the case with the conflict in the example. Also, the manifest conflict is marked by a dispute between the parties, and there is the use of contentious tactics by the parties. It results from failure to address the conflict at an earlier stage or failure to fully solve the conflict.

Strategies for Resolving the Conflict

One of the most efficient methods of conflict resolution is improved communication (Ostrom, 2014). Most of the conflict arises because of little or no communication between employees in the workplace. Communication between workers helps in clarifying issues, defining boundaries and avoiding misunderstanding (Ostrom, 2014). When parties communicate with each other, they can resolve a conflict and decrease the probability of a conflict occurring in future. In some instances, for effective communication to occur and the conflict to be resolved there is the need fora mediator. A third party accelerates the rate of finding a solution and avoiding blame games in the processes. In this case, there is the need for a mediator who will make the two parties involved to resolve their conflict. This is because it seems there was poor communication since if the physician had informed the nurse that he had administered medicine that would reduce the effects of the prescribed drugs there could be no conflict.

Another effective method of resolving conflict is accommodation in which one of the parties involved tries to cooperate (Ostrom, 2014). In this case, the nurse could have cooperated with the physician instead of engaging in an argument with him. She could have apologized for her mistake and promised not to repeat it in future. In turn, this could have brought about harmony, and in future, the physician will be in a position to explain the reasons he took certain measures or requires the nurse to act in a specific manner.

Collaboration is another method that can be used in conflict resolution. In this case, both parties are willing to resolve the conflict, come up with an acceptable solution, and involve some level of compromise (Fisher, 2016). In this scenario, the physician would have overcome his perceived superiority over the nurse and explained the reasons behind his actions. Further, he would have listened to the reason which made the nurse decide not to give the medication and explain to her the dangers it posed to the patient.

Other strategies that would be used in solving the conflict involve avoidance and competition. However, the two methods would not have been effective since they could heighten the probability of the conflict reoccurring in future (Fisher, 2016). For instance, if the nurse applied avoidance, she could have withdrawn from the situation to avoid confrontations and may not feel free to point out an error that she has discovered. In addition, if competition was employed, the manager would have said that things have to be done his way and no suggestions are allowed. In turn, this would make the nurse feel inferior and fail to express her thought in future, which could create tension between the two.

Was Delegation The Issue In The Case?

Delegation involves the assigning of authority to others in certain tasks, functions, and decisions (Dobrajska, Billinger, & Karim, 2015). Many people fail to delegate duties to others for various reasons such as the perceived loss of power, viewing others as incompetent, and the fear of losing control among others. Failure to delegate always results to conflicts in the workplace more so in care delivery setting. In this situation, failure to delegate would have contributed to the conflict. This is because the physician may have perceived the nurse as incompetent and lacked confidence in her to make decisions that were meant for him. Hence, he wanted to retain all his power, control and authority, which was the main cause of the conflict.

How to Collaborate With the Nurse Leader to Reach a Consensus on Best Strategy and Rationale for Selecting the Best Strategy

The nurse leader has a noble duty of eliminating any conflict that may arise in the care delivery setting among other duties. To come to a consensus on the best procedure for solving the conflict, I would collaborate with the nurse leader and define a process through which we would analyze the conflict and come up with the best solution. The first step would involve hearing out both sides. This would involve giving the nurse and the physician a chance to explain their side of the story in details. The second step would involve getting the root of the problem by digging deeper into past issues and conflicts; this would ease the process of coming to a consensus. The last step would involve finding common ground or some of the issues which the two involved agree on. This creates a rapport between the two and creates a platform in which the conflict can be solved. Upon following the process above keenly, the best strategy identified is collaboration. The rationale for choosing this method is based on that fact that the method leads to a win-win situation. Further, it results in satisfaction of both parties, which will eliminate conflicts even in future (Fisher, 2016). The method could, therefore, resulted to respect among the parties, understanding, and growth in knowledge. Besides, mutual understanding brought about by collaboration would lead to easier implementation of any decisions made.


The conflict between the physician and the nurse was an eye opener. Getting to analyze the case and learn more about conflict and strategies that can be used to solve the conflict gave me an opportunity to view myself as an agent of peace in the care delivery setting. With the experience at hand, I can be able to apply the knowledge gained to solve conflicts among my colleagues and avoiding them myself. The best strategies I can use to solve conflicts between my colleagues in future are accommodation and collaboration based on the type and the stage of the conflict. However, if the conflict involved my workmates and me, I would apply avoidance and accommodation. I would then speak to my senior to mediate or look for an external mediator to help us solve the conflict entirely. Conflicts can be destructive and hence should be avoided at all cost and addressed on time if they occur especially in care delivery setting since they put the life of patients at risk.


Dobrajska, M., Billinger, S., & Karim, S. (2015). Delegation within the hierarchies: How information processing and knowledge characteristics influence the allocation of formal and real decision authority. Organization Science, 26(3), 687-704.

Finkelman, A. (2015). Leadership and Management in Nursing: Core Competencies for Quality Care. Pearson.

Fisher, R. J. (2016). Third party consultation: A method for study and the resolution of conflict. In Ronald J. Fisher: A North American Pioneer in Interactive Conflict Resolution (pp. 37-71). Springer International Publishing.

Ostrom, E. (2014). Collective action and evolution of social norms. Journal of Natural Resources Policy Research, 6(4), 235-252.

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