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What is the best way to deal with a patient-staff member conflict?

Because some situations are not worth a battle, it is important that your approach to dealing with any conflict is based on risk-management.

  • If a patient feels a caregiver was rude to them but cannot give an example, it is not worth a battle over who is right or wrong. Reassigning a staff member to another patient resolves the issue, as long as you make it clear to the caregiver that this action does not imply that the patient was right.
  • If the patient can provide a valid example that the staff member was rude, then you must resolve the issue through interventions with the employee.
  • Consider the option(s) that is in the patient's best interest at the time and that will help to minimize stress for the employee. You may also elect to help the employee face the patient with his or her complaint by role-playing appropriate responses. This may result in the patient becoming more defensive, or it may result in an apology from the patient.
  • Never be afraid to admit that the patient was wrong, and be prepared to deal with this conflict using an approach that does not leave you feeling naked. That is, bring in your manager, a patient advocate, or another member of the administrative team to assist in dealing with this conflict.

-Shelley Cohen, RN, BSN, CEN