Changing the future: the effects of a conflict management seminar on nurse managers in long-term care



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Texas Tech University


The ever-changing health care environment is forcing executives to examine the practice of professional nursing in long-term care. Much of the responsibility for competency in this area falls upon directors of nurses who, if lacking in adequate leadership skills, can find themselves frustrated and their employees dissatisfied. Many schools are responding to this need by offering graduate courses which help to prepare nurses for leadership roles, and encouraging participation in conferences and other educational programs to improve performance. There are data suggesting that leadership ability is inherent, but that further shaping occurs throughout life. Managers must continually examine how their behaviors affect others. For them to be optimally effective in today's health care environment, it is essential that they possess leadership skills that empower others. Lack of sufficient leadership preparations often results in their frustration and disenchantment with leadership activities and affects the delivery of health care.

When a leadership gap exists, the profession deteriorates because it cannot visualize a new and different future and make the changes that turn a new vision into a reality. What nursing needs today and for the future is leaders who have the curiosity, imagination, and innovative thinking to build new models of care and care giving (Kerfoot, 1998). A major concern of leadership is the conflict management style of nurses. Nurses cannot just be nurses, they are leaders. According to Douglass (1992), nurse managers must manage conflict effectively in order to drive the changes that are occurring. Nurses must supervise staff, care for patients, document extensively, communicate with families, physicians, etc. Conflict management is a skill that can be taught and developed (Wall & Callister, 1995). Defining and improving the characteristics of leadership skills in nurses will only enhance the quality of care in longterm care facilities, and will provide competent leaders to meet the demands of the rapidly changing environment.

A study done by the American Management Association (McEhianey, 1996) revealed these findings: • Managers spend an average of 20% of their time dealing with conflict. • Managers feel that their ability to negotiate has become important over the last 10 years. • Conflict management is rated as of equal or slightly higher importance than planning, communication, motivation, and decision-making. • Managers list certain psychological factors as sources of conflict: misunderstanding, communication failure, personality clashes and value differences, (p. 49)

This quasi-experimental study examined the effects of a conflict management model utilizing the pretest-posttest design. Nurse managers were chosen from Abilene, Lubbock, Waco, and Amarillo. Subjects in Abilene and Odessa were assigned to the experimental group and subjects from Amarillo, Waco, and Lubbock were assigned to the control group. The experimental group was taught the conflict resolution seminar, and the control group did not participate. All subjects took the pre and posttest. Overall, results of the study were favorable. Decreases were noted in the experimental group's avoiding and accommodating styles. Their level of collaboration increased. The control group showed no statistically differences at posttest as was expected.