Conflict Management and Job Satisfaction. Major Challenges for Nursing and Medical Staff in Greek Public Pediatrics Hospitals

Background: The intensive and stressful working environment of hospitals, which employ staff from many different professional groups with various educational levels, may contribute to a large extent to the creation of conflict. Aim: Determination of the key factors which lead to conflicts in the hospital workplace environment, and identification of strategies for handling such conflicts. Method: The study population consisted of 180 nurses and nursing assistants and 106 physicians from a full range of specialties, employed at 4 Greek public paediatric hospitals. A questionnaire designed specifically for examining conflicts in hospitals was distributed to the health professionals for self-completion, and participation in the study was voluntary. The Chi-square test was used to find relationships between categorical variables. The level of statistical significance was p=0.05. Results: The response rate was 66%, and of the participants 37% were medical staff, 47% were nurses (university or technological education) and 16% were nursing assistants. The majority of participants reported that they encounter conflicts with colleagues in their own ward, but only 17% with members of another professional group. The physicians reported more conflicts with their colleagues (73.3%). Avoidance was the most commonly implemented strategy of dealing with conflict reported by the medical/nursing staff (61% of physicians and 64.2% of nursing staff), while acceptance was the least utilized policy. The highest job satisfaction was reported by health professionals who were aware of these issues, but 77% of the participants had not trained in conflict management. Some of the key issues identified by these health professionals are organizational, given the finding that approximately 1 in 2 nurses and physicians agreed that receiving directions from more than one manager may lead to conflicts. The majority of the participants (95.8%) claimed that the statutory regulations do not provide a clear definition of their duties and do not help them to fulfil their duties efficiently. The nursing staff mentioned more frequently than the physicians that educational differences constitute an obstacle to communication between different professional groups (p=0.006). The majority of the participants (96.3%) were not satisfied with their wage in relation with their work-load. Conclusions: Major operational changes are needed with respect to employee motivation, the organizational structure of hospitals and human resources management and training, with the aim of mitigating the conflicts in the working environment of Greek public hospitals.