Handling Conflict in Your Practice

Milton Little, MD, FAAOS | Matthew Varacallo, MD

May 15, 2023

Got a topic you’d like to see in a future post? Submit your ideas here.

This is a very “real world” and sits outside the boundaries of the traditional training and educational curriculum topics.  That being said, being ill-prepared for some practice conflicts can create clinical setbacks, disrupt patient care, and negatively impact the integrity and reputation of a physician and/or entire practice.  There is no one-size-fits-all blueprint for handling conflict in these difficult situations.  Here are some high-yield tips that can certainly assist you in navigating most scenarios.

1Create a Positive Practice Culture

 Leadership sets culture and culture sets strategy.  As surgeons and physicians, we are in natural positions of leadership, and it is very important to lead by example.  Your attitude and approach during situations of conflict can help set the tone for the entire organization. Additionally, one must make sure that your practice manager or day-to-day office leader is in sync with the culture you are creating.  By developing and fostering a positive, hard-working, and team-oriented culture, you ultimately are setting a very solid foundation that will be a guiding light that will allow your practice to survive in times of conflict.  Inversely, a clinic built on a toxic culture will crumble in the setting of conflict.

2Always be Respectful

Respect an individual’s situation and respect an individual’s reputation. Nothing demolishes credibility quicker than public shaming. Neither party looks good in those situations. Speak directly and respectfully with a neutral party when discussing conflict with your colleagues 

3Avoid the Rumor Mill and Avoid Gossip

Nothing good comes from rumors and gossip.  As soon as you go down this road, you will lose your professional credibility and integrity.

4Use Your Superiors and the Human Resources Department When in Doubt

While we have all dealt with conflict in our careers, we are often not formally trained in conflict resolution.  Before a situation gets out of hand involve the trained professionals who manage conflict on a day-to-day basis.  There is no shame in admitting that you may need professional guidance in navigating some of these conflicts.

5Follow the Conflict Resolution and Learn for the Next Experience

Everyone makes mistakes, especially physicians and those in the hospital setting.  None of us are immediate experts at surgical procedures or conflict resolution.   There are technical steps to this process and if you take the extra time to learn from these conflicts as they arise, you will become a better, more well-rounded, healthcare professional in the end!

6Ask a Mentor

Never underestimate the value your mentor can add in conflict resolution. Be aware, not all mentors are great at conflict resolution.  However, many times value can be added when discussing a similar situation and there is no harm in asking your mentor or another respected professional in your network for advice.

We train for many years and then when we eventually start our own practice, the most difficult situations are situations that we have not been formally envisioned. Sometimes, the revision cases and the complex primary joint replacements can be the “easy” part of your career!  Try to pick up conflict resolution skills early on in your training so you can be better prepared for a well-rounded career.  Always stay focused on your mission of taking care of patients and being the best healthcare professional and partner you can be. Remember, everyone respects an individual who can effectively handle conflicts!

DISCLOSURES: Dr. Little Globus Medical, Consultant: Depuy Synthes, Consultant: Restor3D, Committee Member: AO Fellowship Committee; OTA Membership Committee; OTA Diversity Committee; OTA Wellness Committee. Dr. Varacallo This individual reported nothing to disclose.

Read the AAOS Code of Conduct for Discussion Group Terms, Conditions and Disclaimers HERE.

Copyright© 2023 by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s