Handle nurse-patient conflict the right way

Nurse Leader Insider, September 18, 2019

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You arrive to work at 6:30 a.m. and find a night-shift nurse crying outside your office door. Between tears, the nurse tells you about a patient and her husband who have done nothing but complain since they arrived. The woman, who was brought to the hospital by her husband about a half-hour earlier, is scheduled for a one-day surgical procedure. It was evident that no matter what staff had done to appease this couple, they had already decided they were not going to be satisfied.

What should you do? This scenario requires that you put on your leadership hat, because the most important concern related to this conflict is that the patient and her scheduled procedure are major risk-management issues for the staff and the organization.

Introduce yourself to the patient and family. Share with them that you understand that they feel your department is not meeting their expectations. With that in mind, inform them that you have contacted the surgeon to make him aware of how unhappy they are with the staff.

Never be afraid to admit that the patient or visitor was wrong, and be prepared to deal with this conflict using an approach that does not leave you feeling exposed. In other words, bring in your manager, a patient advocate, or another member of the administrative team to assist in dealing with this conflict.


Editor's note: The above excerpt was from our online course, "Nursing CE Series: Communication & Conflict Management for Nurse Managers." For more information about our nursing resources, click here.

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