Book excerpt: Training charge nurses to handle conflict

Staff Development Weekly: Insight on Evidence-Based Practice in Education, January 21, 2011

Conflict is inevitable. Charge nurses will be leading and holding team members accountable, and it is only natural in this position to encounter conflict each day. It is critical that charge nurses are able to manage conflict in a professional manner in order to be effective in their role. That means understating and applying conflict management strategies as appropriate to the clinical situation:

Discuss current methods of conflict management and how they can affect certain situations they will encounter by providing situational examples:

  • Teach charge nurses to analyze their own conflict management styles. Ask them to reflect on a situation in the past when they encountered conflict and discuss how they managed it.
  • Ask charge nurses to identify people and situations that are challenging for them to approach. Ask them to evaluate the reasons why the person and/or situation are challenging and identify the obstacles.

Always discuss reluctance to address conflict and talk about what can happen if conflict is not dealt with as it arises. Provide examples of how conflict could affect the safe delivery of patient care. It is imperative that charge nurses understand the importance of working through conflicts in a collaborative manner. This will help build strong relationships. Consider the following strategies to address charge nurses' reluctance to manage conflict:

  • Establish conflicts are a problem and address them proactively.
  • If charge nurses are fearful of a conflict, they should ask themselves what barriers exist and look for opportunities to challenge their reluctance to address this. Mentor your charge nurses to seek input from more experienced colleagues to gather feedback that they can apply to the situation.
  • If charge nurses find they are unwilling to deal with conflict in a clinical situation, think about the consequences of not resolving the conflict and how that affects the overall safe delivery of patient care.

Source: Adapted from Charge Nurse Program Builder: Tools for Developing Unit Leaders, by Tammy L. Berbarie, BA, RN-BC. For more information, visit

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