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Let’s be honest, conflict can be difficult to manage and the time pressure and acuity of decisions in healthcare make it an environment rife with conflict. But not all conflict is bad, in fact, conflict can be an opportunity to share information about a problem and understand another person’s perspective. Things to consider:
- Task conflict, disagreement about the specific task to be done – for example getting an x-ray vs. a CT scan can be productive. Open discussion about which study is better and why can help individuals with different perspectives and expertise develop shared knowledge around the topic. Task conflict, when possible should be handled in the moment, in an objective, inquisitive manner to prevent the conflict from escalating.
- Process conflict, disagreement about how something should be done - for example, when on rounds the medical student should call a consult (as outlined in the previous discussion by Ryan), handled well, can also lead to productive conversation and team learning. Similar to task conflict, open discussion about the differing opinions and how to proceed once perspectives and information are shared should be handled, if possible, when the conflict arises.