Beyond Disagreements: The Psychology of Conflict Resolution in Clinical Teams for Optimal Patient Care

Team IIBP Anveshan, Business Psychology, Employee Engagement, Employee Health, Employee wellbeing, General Psychology, Issue 35, Mental Health, Occupational Health, Organizational Culture, Organizational Development, Volume 4

Conflicts in clinical teams can be an enormous barrier to providing patients with optimum care. Not being able to resolve conflicts leads to anxiety and poor trust among healthcare practitioners, leading to more errors at work than professionals who do not have conflicts. This can lead to adverse outcomes and compromise their work and the quality of patient care (Sexton & Orchard, 2016). From an Indian perspective, challenges faced by healthcare professionals in our country stem from the lack of infrastructure and human resources, overcrowding in wards and inflexible working hours (Mishra et al., 2021). Clinical teams, for example, in the mental health field, could include a psychiatrist, neuropsychologist, clinical psychologist, psycho-oncologist, counselling psychologist and a psychiatric social worker- all in one team to help give the best service to the patient.

A team so diverse helps a client deal with their problem holistically as well as helps customise a treatment plan for them more effectively. The advantages of having a multidisciplinary team are immense in terms of knowledge bank and skills, but this brings its own set of challenges, such as working smoothly with such a diverse background of professionals. Different barriers in working with a varied pool of professionals can be related to their differences in professional values and approaches, personalities, communication patterns, power differentials and hierarchy as well as organisational, in terms of division of work to teams and work mode opted (remote, offline or hybrid) (Zajac et al., 2021).

Various skills can be taught to professionals in healthcare and clinical settings for the resolution of conflict; these are as follows:

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills come in handy when one is trying to resolve conflict. Good communication enables reconciliation and conflict resolution by sending unambiguous messages. It enables dialogue between parties, which helps get a clear picture of the problem (Sexton & Orchard, 2016).

2. Problem-solving Skills
Problem-solving is a strong indicator of one’s ability to overcome challenges. Various problem-solving models have been discussed; one talks about identifying the problem and developing alternative solutions (Coleman et al., 2000). Another model discusses defining the problem, gathering and analysing data and implementing an appropriate solution (Sexton & Orchard, 2016).

3. Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence can be a very underrated but essential tool in conflict resolution. Emotional intelligence works in two steps: the first is to understand the other party’s emotions, and the second is to use this understanding to mitigate conflictual situations. Emotional intelligence is further defined by many factors such as self-awareness, social awareness, adaptability, stress management and general mood of the person (Başoğul & Özgür, 2016).

Our education systems and workplaces need a module that trains people in clinical settings to resolve conflicts. Short-term training programs should be designed and implemented which incorporate the development of skills like clear communication and problem-solving as well as skills that aid the development of emotional intelligence. All these steps can prove quite effective in enhancing patient care.


Başoğul, R. C., & Özgür, R. G. (2016b). Role of Emotional Intelligence in Conflict Management Strategies of Nurses. Asian Nursing Research, 10(3), 228–233.

Coleman, P. G., Deutsch, M., & Marcus, E. R. (2000). The Handbook of Conflict Resolution: Theory and Practice.

Mishra, A., Bhardwaj, D., & Kishore, J. (2021b). Effective Communication and Conflict Management Workshop for Nursing Interns: Experience at a Tertiary Care Hospital of Delhi, India. International Journal of Healthcare Education & Medical Informatics, 07(3 & 4), 6–10.

Sexton, M., & Orchard, C. (2016). Understanding healthcare professionals’ self-efficacy to resolve interprofessional conflict. Journal of Interprofessional Care, 30(3), 316–323.

Zajac, S., Woods, A., Tannenbaum, S. I., Salas, E., & Holladay, C. L. (2021). Overcoming Challenges to Teamwork in Healthcare: A Team Effectiveness Framework and Evidence-Based Guidance. Frontiers in Communication, 6.

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