Conflict Resolution and Bioethics Mediation Training for Healthcare

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Conflict in health care is inevitable and often destructive. Teams with diverse training collaborate to care for patients whose needs and goals vary widely. The Joint Commission finds that communication problems underlie at least 70% of sentinel events, and now requires all health care organizations to have processes for addressing conflict. Conflict in the clinical setting can cause adverse outcomes, patient dissatisfaction, provider burnout and moral distress.

Conflict Resolution Training provides distinctive skills for these difficult conversations by assisting people in conflict to listen carefully, define the problem(s), identify underlying interests, problem-solve creatively, and ultimately forge a resolution that makes sense for everyone. Well-developed conflict resolution skills can often transform a festering problem everyone avoids, into an opportunity to enhance future communication, improve quality of care and increase satisfaction for patients, families, and care providers alike.

Conflict resolution training thus enables professionals who work in the clinical setting—administration, ethics committee members, physicians, nurses, legal counsel, chaplains, social workers, patient advocates, risk managers, security staff and others—to assist in difficult situations with approaches ranging from informal conversations to serving as in-house “neutrals” for particularly contentious conflicts.

Additionally, Bioethics Mediation is now recognized as an essential skill for ethics consultants. Rarely do requests for an “ethics consult” involve genuine moral puzzlement about what is the right thing to do. Far more commonly, strongly held but deeply divergent views about what is right are in collision. A respectful conflict resolution process, in which each person has the opportunity to be heard and understood, can often enable disputants to have the respectful, problem-solving conversation that finds common ground leading to a mutually acceptable plan of action. The mediator does not provide the answers; rather the people in conflict do.

This training emphasizes learn-by-doing. The instructors—experienced professional mediators who also are highly familiar with health care’s clinical realities—initially familiarize participants with the “mediator’s toolbox” of skills essential to conflict resolution, then integrate those skills into a variety of simulation exercises. Across these exercises, each participant will serve sometimes as mediator and sometimes as disputant. All scenarios are based on real cases in health care, and each practice is followed by in-depth debriefing with extensive feedback to participants. Each scenario specifically highlights one or more of the distinctive challenges that arise for conflict resolution in health care, including: establishing the mediator’s impartiality and credibility; cultural issues; confidentiality of mediation in the clinical setting; determining who belongs at the table; and other issues pivotal to successful resolution.