RP201 – Session 1: Conflict (21 Feb 2018)

Session Readings


Intro to RP201 (Thinking on Action):

In RP201, we are afforded the time to pause and reflect on our experiences during the clerkship year, and to explore important topics that will become increasingly relevant to you as you near graduation and the start of your residency training.  It is our hope that these sessions will offer you time to re-connect with your classmates, further develop and share personal insight, enhance your compassion and ability to effectively care for others, and offer strategies for decreasing burnout and enhancing resilience.  Today’s session explores the topic of Conflict in the healthcare setting.



 “The passions are the same in every conflict, large or small.” Mason Cooley, PhD.

Physicians encounter conflict (both internal and external) no less frequently than others in society.  Whether the conflict is with other members of the healthcare team, our patients, our patients’ families, or ourselves, both the conflict itself and our reactions to it have the potential to impact the care we offer our patients.  Reflecting on conflicts you have observed (or in which you were engaged) during your core clerkship rotations (or perhaps in past clinical roles you have had) is a first step in helping you to better respond to these situations in the future.

Assignment (submit papers in Sakai under the Assignments Tab):

Reflect on a patient care experience that involved a conflict (one in which you were a part[i]) that had an impact on the care delivered to your or your team’s patient(s).  Include a description of the patient care experience, including pertinent background information.  In your writing, include the following:

  1. Describe the situation. Set the stage and be specific to help the reader more fully appreciate the context in which the conflict occurred and what led to the conflict itself.
  2. Examine how you reacted to the conflict.  How did your reaction affect your interaction with your patient, their family, support staff, colleagues, residents, and/or faculty?  Is this how you thought you would react in such a situation? How have you reacted to similar situations in the past? Have you attempted to implement strategies to help you with similar challenges in the future? If so, have they been helpful?
  3. Analyze the impact that this conflict and your reaction to it had on the care your patient received. (NOTE: this MUST include the impact your reaction to this conflict had on the care you delivered. It may also include your perception of how the conflict impacted the way others on the team cared for the patient).
  4. Describe the insights you gained about yourself through reflecting on this experience and how you think it will impact your practice of medicine in the future.

[i] This conflict may be external (with someone else) or internal (with yourself)


Speaker: LTC Philip S. Mullenix, MD, FACS, FCCP serves as Assistant Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery for the DHA/NCA, and Associate Professor USU-WRB
Department of Surgery.  His professional activities include thoracic surgical oncology, minimally invasive thoracic surgery, war surgery, surgical safety &
quality outcomes, and house staff & medical student education.


By the end of the small group session on “Conflict”, students will demonstrate the ability to:

  1. Identify situations during their core clerkship rotations during which they experienced internal or external conflict.
  2. Examine the impact of this conflict on the way they interacted with and cared for their patients.
  3. Reflect on the cognitive and/or affective insights gained from this experience.
  4. Consider the implications of this experience for how they will deal with conflict in the future.
TEDxDare to Disagree by Margaret Heffernan Conflict is often labeled as negative, but is this always, or even frequently, true? In this talk, Margaret Heffernan explores conflict and the positives that can come from it. As healthcare becomes increasingly interprofessional, understanding the benefits of conflict is essential.
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New York TimesSunday Dialogue: Conversations between Doctor and Patient A series of letters that debate whether clinicians should be assertive or let the patient decide.
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CaptureThe Roots of Tribalism - Lack of Empathy Meebo cofounder Seth Sterberg describes watching tribalism unfold in the workplace and unveils his strategy to discount such issues by encouraging his employees to empathize with each other's personal struggles.
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AtlanticSamuel Shem, 34 Years After 'The House of God' Reflecting on the importance of community and connection among junior doctors navigating the "brutality of medical training" and the clinical world.
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logo-postmedj-artConflict management: a primer for doctors in training Conflict in the health arena is a growing concern and is well recognised for doctors in training. Its most extreme expression, workplace violence is on the increase. There is evidence that many conflicts remain unsatisfactorily resolved or unresolved, and result in ongoing issues for staff morale. This paper describes the nature of conflict in the health care system and identifies the difference between conflict and disagreement. Using a conflict resolution model, strategies for dealing with conflict as it arises are explored and tips are provided on how to effectively manage conflict to a satisfactory resolution for all parties.
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New York TimesWhen the Nurse Disagrees with the Doctor by Theresa Brown How we engage in a dialogue when conflict exists between healthcare professionals is often the most important issue.
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Session originally created by: Adam Saperstein | SOM/GSN, Uniformed Services University | Director, Reflective Practice | Family Medicine