Nurses' perceptions of conflict as constructive or destructive

Wonsun Kim, Anne M. Nicotera, Julie McNulty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Aims: The aim of this study was to examine nurses' perceptions of constructive and destructive conflicts and their management among nurses. Background: Conflict among nurses is common and has been associated with lack of collaboration, lack of communication and disruptive behaviour, with the potential to have negative impact teamwork. However, unlike the broader social science literature, positive views of conflict are scarce in the nursing literature. Given the various functions of conflict and the high stakes of ineffective conflict management in nursing, it is necessary to examine how nurses understand both sides of conflict: constructive and destructive. Design: A qualitative descriptive design. Methods: Data were collected from 34 full time nurses as part of a conflict skills training course offered over 6 months beginning in October 2009. Each participant was asked to write a weekly journal about conflicts in his/her work place. Result: Data yielded 163 entries (82 classified as constructive and 81 as destructive). Results showed that quality patient care and cooperative communication contributed to the perception that conflict is constructive in nature. The central underlying themes in nurses' perceptions of destructive conflict were time constraints, role conflict and power differences that are not managed through communication. Conclusion: This article helps to identify nursing perceptions of constructive and destructive conflict and to understand complexities nurses face during their interactions with other nurses, physicians and patients. The insight that constructive views are related to constructive processes provides an excellent opportunity for an educational intervention, so that we can educate nurses to analyse problems and learn how to manage conflict with effective collaborative processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2073-2083
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of advanced nursing
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015


  • Constant comparative
  • Construct conflict
  • Destructive conflict
  • Nurses

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)


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