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Year : 2018  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 106-107

Approaches to Resolve a Conflict in the Medical Education and Healthcare Sectors

Department of Community Medicine, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College & Research Institute, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Date of Web Publication28-Aug-2018

Correspondence Address:
Saurabh R Shrivastava
Department of Community Medicine, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College & Research Institute, 3rd Floor, Ammapettai Village, Thiruporur-Guduvancherry Main Road, Sembakkam Post, Kancheepuram, Ammapettai, Chennai 603108, Tamil Nadu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/mamcjms.mamcjms_61_17

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How to cite this article:
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS, Ramasamy J. Approaches to Resolve a Conflict in the Medical Education and Healthcare Sectors. MAMC J Med Sci 2018;4:106-7

How to cite this URL:
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS, Ramasamy J. Approaches to Resolve a Conflict in the Medical Education and Healthcare Sectors. MAMC J Med Sci [serial online] 2018 [cited 2021 Sep 16];4:106-7. Available from: https://www.mamcjms.in/text.asp?2018/4/2/106/240004

Dear Editor,

The emergence of conflict has been identified as a ubiquitous phenomenon, and this stands true even in the medical education and healthcare delivery sectors.[1] The best part of any conflict is that it does not always result in a negative outcome, and can be looked upon as a driving force to resolve the prevailing issue.[1],[2] Considering the changing dynamics of the healthcare sector, possessing better communication skills is the need of the hour, because otherwise, significant loss of resources (viz. time, money, and manpower) and poor health outcomes in patients have been reported.[1],[2],[3] However, it is a pity that clinicians-cum-teachers and students (undergraduate or postgraduate) are extremely poor in the same, predominantly because they are seldom sensitized about communication skills and the resolution of conflicts arising in day-to-day practice.[2],[3]

The potential source of conflict can arise from various causes, such as inadequate or overload of information, unclear jurisdiction or instructions, communication barriers, and previous unresolved conflicts.[2],[3],[4],[5] Acknowledging the fact that responding to a conflict is a skill, which a student or faculty must possess, training them to upgrade their interpersonal and soft skills becomes indispensable.[2],[3],[4],[5] Regardless of the nature of conflict, the response of a person is identified by whether her/his intention is to sustain/improve association with others (cooperativeness) or whether she/he is self-centered and only wants to win (assertiveness).[4] To resolve conflicts, a Thomas–Kilmann conflict mode instrument is available, which specifies five separate ways to respond to a conflict,[4],[5] namely
  • Competing: This approach is more of assertiveness and is cooperative to a limited extent. It can be employed when prompt action is desired, in those situations that demand for a win more than what precisely others desire, and settings in which cooperative behavior can be misused. However, owing to the fact that the opinions of the involved persons are not taken into account, there is a definite possibility of re-emergence of the problem and can even result in an atmosphere of fear, a lack of transparency, and minimal chances for learning.[5]
  • Avoiding: This approach is low on assertiveness as well as cooperation, and, thus, never provides satisfaction to the involved persons with regard to the problems. This approach can be employed to avail some time to take control of the problem or when the problem under consideration does not require much attention, and, thus, any delay in its resolution will not have any untoward sequels. Nevertheless, because the issues tend to persist, people might get irritated by the lack of intervention. This might even culminate in the interruption of all forms of communication.[4]
  • Compromising: This approach is moderately assertive and moderately cooperative, and, thus, to some extent meets the need of the involved conflicting parties. This can be the method of choice when we have to deal with an issue of lesser importance, but in a timely manner. In addition, problems that require short-term solutions or when there is no need to sustain an association between the parties involved in the conflict, this approach can be utilized. However, the approach fails to ascertain a collaborative answer to the conflict, and the real issue continues to persist.[5]
  • Accommodating: This approach is low on assertiveness, but demands more cooperation, and usually resolves the problems of others, while one’s own interests are ignored. This approach is generally employed when we wish to show that we are reasonable, want to establish a good image of ourselves, or while dealing with situations of minimal importance. Nevertheless, this approach may later result in hatred, and a person employing this approach has a minimal extent of influence.[4]
  • Collaborating: In this approach, both assertiveness and cooperation remain high and, thus, equally meet the concerns of all involved parties. This approach has been recognized as the best and, therefore, should be used as often as possible. This approach results in creative and durable outcomes, promotes frank discussion regarding concerns, and encourages equal distribution of work. However, it remains a time-consuming process and might lead to frustration among those who need a quick decision.[4],[5]

Moreover, in any attempt to resolve a conflict, the first and foremost thing is to allow each stakeholder to express her/his own interests to others, which is then followed by the identification of areas of overlap among these self-interests.[1],[2] Subsequently, in collaboration, answers are formulated to the persisting issues, finally certifying as to what all have been agreed upon.[1],[2],[3] Furthermore, in the resolution of any conflict, the importance of engaging in good communication (effective, open, and honest) and the role of emotions and moral distress (viz. a health professional knows what is ethically right, but cannot execute the same because of various reasons) can never be ignored.[1],[2],[3],[4] Even though to have a better communication actually calls for more time requirement, nevertheless, in the long run, it definitely saves time and resources by reducing misunderstandings and errors and by promoting better relationships.[2],[4]

To conclude, the medical education and healthcare sectors should implement appropriate interventions for the better assessment of conflicts, for their management, and even relating to prevention to improve the overall outcome of healthcare. At the same time, though the approaches to resolve conflicts might appear simple, it requires continuous education, training, and practice to be competent in the desired skills.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Sawa RJ, Phelan A, Myrick F, Barlow C, Hurlock D, Rogers G. The anatomy and physiology of conflict in medical education: A doorway to diagnosing the health of medical education systems. Med Teach 2006;28:e204-13.  Back to cited text no. 1
Holloway KJ. Teaching conflict: Professionalism and medical education. J Bioeth Inq 2015;12:675-85.  Back to cited text no. 2
Barnett-Vanes A, Hassounah S, Shawki M, Ismail OA, Fung C, Kedia T et al. Impact of conflict on medical education: A cross-sectional survey of students and institutions in Iraq. BMJ Open 2016;6:e010460.  Back to cited text no. 3
Mossanen M, Johnston SS, Green J, Joyner BD. A practical approach to conflict management for program directors. J Grad Med Educ 2014;6:345-6.  Back to cited text no. 4
Ogunyemi D, Tangchitnob E, Mahler Y, Chung C, Alexander C, Korwin D. Conflict styles in a cohort of graduate medical education administrators, residents, and board-certified physicians. J Grad Med Educ 2011;3:176–81.  Back to cited text no. 5


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