When a patient comes to your organization for care, the last thing he or she should have to deal with is staff conflict. The patient is often feeling vulnerable, frightened and uncertain about his own condition. He needs reassurance that everyone has his best interests at heart and that he is at the center of their attention. He needs to believe that his providers and caregivers are all on the same page and are collaborating in his care. But what happens when patients witness interpersonal conflicts between staff members? Chances are good that he’ll feel awkward and begin to question the level of care.
There is no doubt that conflicts arise in the workplace. They can be between direct caregivers, support staff and physicians. The conflicts may be minor and short-lived or become as entrenched in the culture as the legendary Hatfields and McCoys. I’ve personally witnessed screaming matches between doctors as well as between staff members. Patients should never have to witness overt conflict among staff or providers. They have the right to feel safe, emotionally and physically. Conflict in their presence is not just awkward; it builds uncertainty in the care.
Chances are good that your organization advertises your high quality care. When you promise quality, the consumer is expecting it throughout all aspects of the experience. What if you were totally transparent? Are you willing to admit that your staff fights and your providers detest one another and don’t respect the nurses? I doubt it. You want to put your best foot forward in your advertising, but it’s up to the individuals to deliver on the promise.
Disney has long been lauded as the epitome of customer experience. You’d never see Cinderella and Snow White in a throw down, hair-pulling match over who goes to lunch next. Their policy of on-stage behavior precludes cast members from breaking character. Don’t we owe our patients the same level of professionalism at all times? After all the stakes are much higher for people admitted to a hospital than those entering a theme park. Every encounter should build trust and reassure the patient that he’s in competent hands and that the team is unified and focused on delivering the best possible care.