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J Interprof Care. 2011 Jan;25(1):4-10. doi: 10.3109/13561820.2010.497750. Epub 2010 Aug 26.

Conflict on interprofessional primary health care teams--can it be resolved?

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Centre for Studies in Family Medicine, Department of Family Medicine, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, The University of Western Ontario, London, ON, Canada.


Increasingly, primary health care teams (PHCTs) depend on the contributions of multiple professionals. However, conflict is inevitable on teams. This article examines PHCTs members' experiences with conflict and responses to conflict. This phenomenological study was conducted using in-depth interviews with 121 participants from 16 PHCTs (10 urban and 6 rural) including a wide range of health care professionals. An iterative analysis process was used to examine the verbatim transcripts. The analysis revealed three main themes: sources of team conflict; barriers to conflict resolution; and strategies for conflict resolution. Sources of team conflict included: role boundary issues; scope of practice; and accountability. Barriers to conflict resolution were: lack of time and workload; people in less powerful positions; lack of recognition or motivation to address conflict; and avoiding confrontation for fear of causing emotional discomfort. Team strategies for conflict resolution included interventions by team leaders and the development of conflict management protocols. Individual strategies included: open and direct communication; a willingness to find solutions; showing respect; and humility. Conflict is inherent in teamwork. However, understanding the potential barriers to conflict resolution can assist PHCTs in developing strategies to resolve conflict in a timely fashion.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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