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“Conflict is a normal part of human interaction. In health care, conflict of some sort has been estimated to occur in the management of a half to two thirds of patients. This conflict most commonly arises between clinicians but also occurs between the clinician and the patient” (Services for Australian Rural and Remote Health, 2013).

Therefore, given this, it is likely to assume that Clinical Educators will experience conflict at some time in this role. Clinical Educators should be well versed on conflict resolution skills, not only for their own practice but also to guide their students through conflict.

It is important to recognise that conflict is a normal part of any relationship (Segal and Smith, 2013). Segal and Smith (2013) state that “The ability to successfully resolve conflict depends on your ability to:

  • Manage stress quickly while remaining alert and calm
  • Control your emotions and behaviour
  • Pay attention to the feelings being expressed

“Conflict can be productive when, as a result of listening to other perspectives, a solution is found that may not have been considered previously. It can be destructive when issues are left unresolved or there is coercion and dominance by one group over others" (Services for Australian Rural and Remote Health, 2013).


Strategies to Assist Conflict Resolution

Katz (2007) lists five mechanisms commonly used in conflict resolution:

Mechanisms of conflict resolution

Mechanism                 Application

Avoidance                   Inconsequential disagreement

Yielding                       Own position is wrong

Collaboration              Focus on goals, “win-win”

Compromise               Unable to reach collaborative agreement

Competition                Issue of great importance, no conciliation possible


There are circumstances when each mechanism is valid to apply.


Reflection Activity 1

Consider the five mechanisms used in conflict resolution.

List circumstances when you have utilised each in the past.

Were you happy with the outcome of all situations?

If you were not happy, do you think a change in mechanism would have changed the outcome or was it out of your control?


Katz (2007) divides strategies for conflict resolution into institutional and personal.

Institutional planning

  1. Establish an institution-wide conflict management program.
  2. Build a culture that welcomes normative conflict resolution.
  3. Foster group cohesion.

Personal conduct

  1. Anticipate conflict.
  2. Develop communication skills.
  3. Identify the precise source of the conflict.
  4. Establish rules of conduct.
  5. Find a nonjudgmental starting point for the discussion.
  6. Establish shared standards and goals.
  7. Recognise any shared frustrations
  8. If confrontation with a colleague is necessary, it should be conducted in a private setting.
  9. Have a low threshold for intervention by a third party.
  10. If conflict is ultimately irreconcilable, transfer patient care to an uninvolved colleague.


Reflection Activity 2

Have you experienced conflict with a student in the past? (If not think about another time in your life when you experienced conflict.)

Did you use any of the personal conduct strategies listed above to resolve?

If not, do you think you could have applied these strategies?

Beginning at point 3 and finishing at point 7, apply these strategies to that situation.

Consider what would have been your desired outcome.

Consider what mechanism would have been appropriate for that situation.





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