Inter-professional conflict can heal or it can kill – where do you sit on the continuum?

Inter-professional conflict can heal or it can kill – where do you sit on the continuum?

“It is well established that a leading contributor to sentinel events (serious harm to patients) is a breakdown in teamwork and communication. Additionally, there is clear evidence that interpersonal conflict within teams contributes to decreased communication, increased turnover, and more adverse outcomes for patients.”
Emerging Healthcare Communities (2009) Conflict engagement training for health professionals

Conflict exists on a continuum.  At one end, we have normal, healthy alternative views of the world. Indeed, in the complex world of healthcare (or any world for that matter), there is no one right view.  Every single individual will have a unique perspective making up multiple realities.  Even the evidence is prone to change at an alarming rate.  The ‘facts’ can shift depending on your source and the date.  Apparently, there are over 185,000 new clinical trials in America each year!

If individuals in a healthcare team are not expressing or listening to alternative perspectives and views, depriving their patients of the wealth of intelligence in their health care team. In the face of differences of opinion, a need to be ‘right’ or ‘liked’ will drive people to either fight or shut up, respectively.  In either case, the patient loses out.

The true value of inter-professional collaboration is revealed when the conditions in the team make it safe for every single member to express their alternative views, experiences and expertise – producing synergistic intelligence.

Conflict in and of itself is neither good nor bad. It is the meanings we give ‘different perspectives’ and how we respond that can makes conflict either destructive or transformative.

Given that the stakes are so high, clinicians must be able to integrate alternative views with their own in ways that build the collective wisdom, rather than diminish it.  How well they do this depends on:

  1.  Whether they view conflict as a threat to themselves or their relationships. Or whether they see it as an inevitable part of working with other highly intelligent people.
  2.  The strategies they employ in the face of conflict and whether these encourage differences or shut them down.

If you want to know how to adopt a mindset and strategies to turn every conflict into an opportunity to strengthen collaboration, then join us in “Mastering Conflict, Collaboration and Culture.” This workshop focuses on how to manage conflict and building collaborative relationships and can also earn you CPD units.

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