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J Emerg Nurs. 2014 Jan;40(1):13-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jen.2012.04.013. Epub 2012 Jul 26.

Conflicting priorities: emergency nurses perceived disconnect between patient satisfaction and the delivery of quality patient care.

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Newark, NJ. Electronic address:



As hospitals compete for patients and their healthcare dollars, the emergency nurse is being asked to provide excellent nursing care to "customers" rather than patients. This has changed the approach in delivering quality care and has created favorable conditions for conflict as the nurse tries to achieve specific patient satisfaction goals.


A sample of 9 emergency nurses from 2 hospitals in northern New Jersey participated in focus groups designed to learn about the types of conflict commonly encountered, and to identify the attitudes and understanding of the emergency nurses experiencing conflict and how interpersonal conflict is dealt with.


Thematic content analysis identified an overarching theme of conflicting priorities that represented a perceived disconnect between the priority of the ED leadership to achieve high patient satisfaction scores and nurses' priority to provide quality care. Three interacting sub-themes were identified: (1) staffing levels, (2) leaders don't understand, and (3) unrealistic expectations. The study also found that avoidance was the approach to manage conflict.


The core conflict of conflicting priorities was based on the emergency nurses' perception that while patient satisfaction is important, it is not necessarily an indicator of quality of care. Interacting sub-themes reflect the way in which conflict priorities were influenced by patient satisfaction and the nurses' ability to provide quality care. Avoidant conflict management style was used to resolve conflicting priorities because nurses perceive that there is not enough time to address conflict even though it could impact on work stress and patient care.


Conflict management; Emergency department conflict; Patient satisfaction; Quality patient care

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