As a dialysis provider, you know that healthcare settings and patient conflict go hand in hand. But unresolved patient conflict creates more stress for your staff, decreases productivity and teamwork and harms your clinic’s ability to safely deliver top-quality dialysis care.
Despite these consequences, providers often shy away from confronting challenges with patients because conflict is almost always uncomfortable. Experts call this avoidance a lack of “conflict competence,” and cite it as a major reason for dysfunctional dialysis units.
The good news is that dialysis providers can learn tools that help them effectively manage patient conflict. In this post, we’ll look at the aptly named CONFLICT framework created by the Decreasing Dialysis Patient-Provider Conflict Project designed specifically for dialysis providers to handle and defuse patient conflict.
C - Create a Calm Environment
A tension-filled environment is the last place you’ll be able to resolve conflict. Before addressing the issue, assess whether the timing is right. Take the time necessary to calm yourself before speaking to the patient. Make sure that you’re in a quiet, private room without disturbances and keep your body language open and non-threatening.
O - Open Yourself to Understanding Others
Don’t let your opinions lead the way when entering into a conversation with a patient. Recognizing that the patient has a valid perspective and normalizing emotional reactions goes a long way in de-escalating any stressful situation. Be aware that many factors inform how a patient negotiates conflict.
N - Need a Nonjudgmental Approach
Objectivity is a difficult but necessary position to take to resolve patient conflict. If a patient says something hurtful, let it roll off your back to the best of your ability. Wielding your authority will only exacerbate any resentment; instead, seek to collaborate with the patient to make the best decision possible.
F - Focus On the Issue
While resolving patient conflict, other complaints can pile up during the conversation. Make sure all parties agree on what the complaint is before beginning, and commit to staying focused throughout the discussion. In many cases, it helps to have a mediator facilitate and keep everyone on track.
L - Looking For Solutions
The goal for any conflict resolution session is a positive outcome to which all parties agree. If a patient’s desired outcome can’t be reached, utilize creative problem-solving to discover what aspects can be addressed by your clinic. If the whole problem can’t be fixed, work with the patient to find the aspects of it that can be resolved.
I - Implement Agreement
After diligently listening and communicating, you’ve finally come to the point of agreement with the patient. Now it’s time to make those changes actionable. Write out how all of the involved parties will carry out any changes to behavior. But be careful to follow through, otherwise you run the risk of further patient conflict.
C - Continue to Communicate
Staying in communication with your patient is vital to making sure the conflict is thoroughly addressed. Set a timeline to check in with the patient, family members and staff involved to evaluate if and how the necessary changes have been made.
T - Take Another Look
Seeking outside perspective on why a patient conflict occurred can be useful to prevent repeat situations. Speak with other staff about how the conflict could have been avoided. Take steps to implement additional training on professionalism, communication or other areas that could be strengthened in your dialysis clinic.
While patient conflict is never comfortable, ignoring it will only harm your healthcare practice. Train yourself and your staff in the CONFLICT framework for a smoother path to conflict resolution with your dialysis patients.