Original Research

Using scenarios to explore conflict management practices of nurse unit managers in public hospitals

Mabitja E. Moeta, Suzette M. du Rand
Curationis | Vol 42, No 1 | a1943 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/curationis.v42i1.1943 | © 2019 Mabitja Elias Moeta | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 05 March 2018 | Published: 27 June 2019

About the author(s)

Mabitja E. Moeta, Department of Nursing, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Suzette M. du Rand, Department of Nursing, Faculty of Health Sciences, Nelson Mandela University, South Africa


Background: Workplace conflict is common among nurses globally. Learning how to manage it may reduce related adverse consequences. Inappropriate management of conflict is attributed to decreased productivity, poor morale and financial loss for organisations. Nurse unit managers can play a key role by effectively managing workplace conflict in the units.

Aims and objectives: To explore how nurse unit managers   managed conflict in public hospitals. Subsequently to make recommendations on how to optimise conflict management skills of nurse unit managers. 

Methods: A qualitative, explorative, descriptive and contextual study was conducted to explore how  nurse unit managers  managed conflict based on a scenario provided to them. Purposive sampling was used to select nurse unit managers   working in three public hospitals. Eleven nurse unit managers   participated in the study. Data was collected in two phases. In phase one; a conflict scenario was developed in consultation with experienced nurse managers. The conflict scenario was used during phase two, which involved individual face-to-face semi-structured interviews with nurse unit managers   until data saturation. Tesch’s method of thematic synthesis was utilised to analyse data. Literature review was undertaken to ascertain what is considered as an appropriate intervention in conflict management.

Findings: Three themes emanated: nurse unit managers   managed conflict appropriately, nurse unit managers   avoided the conflict and nurse unit managers   managed conflict inappropriately.

Conclusion: While some of the nurse unit managers   managed conflict appropriately, additional and continuous education and training is required to optimise the capacity and develop their conflict management competency. The findings could be integrated into orientation, training and preparation of nurse managers by healthcare organisations and educational institutions.


Avoidance; Conflict management; Public hospital; Nurse Unit Manager


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