Beyond the Books: Conflict Resolution for Physicians

two physicians who were engaged in an interoffice conflict but used tips to resolve their issue

As physicians you’ve spent years honing your medical skills and knowledge, but conflict resolution was probably not a significant focus during your training. However, effective conflict resolution is crucial for maintaining a harmonious workplace and delivering optimal patient care. Here are some strategies to help you navigate internal and external conflicts in a medical setting:

Communication is Key

Open and honest communication is the foundation of conflict resolution. When faced with a conflict, take the time to listen actively (making eye contact, nodding) to the concerns of your colleague or patient without interrupting. Though emotions may be high, seek to understand their perspectives before expressing your own, and strive for mutual respect and empathy throughout the conversation. Sometimes, the other party merely wants to feel heard and that alone will help alleviate the situation.

Address Issues Early

Don’t avoid ongoing conflicts and allow negative feelings to linger.  Address any perceived issues promptly and directly to prevent escalation. Proactively identify potential sources of conflict, such as differences in treatment approaches from colleagues or disgruntled patients who waited longer than expected, and address them before they become more significant issues.

Related resources: Preventing and Managing Physician Burnout

Get Jobs in Your Specialty Sent to Your Inbox

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Seek Common Ground

Look for areas of agreement or shared goals that can serve as a basis for resolving the conflict. Perhaps you and your colleague agree that an internal process isn’t working, but don’t agree on how to fix it. Finding common ground can help bridge differences and facilitate compromise.

Focus on Solutions, Not Blame

Instead of assigning blame or dwelling on past grievances, focus on finding solutions that address the underlying issues. Ask for your colleague’s or patient’s feedback and seek to creative solutions that meet everyone’s needs.

Maintain Professionalism

Even in the heat of conflict, it’s essential to maintain a professional demeanor. Emotions can build very quickly so avoid personal attacks or disrespectful behavior, and strive to keep the conversation focused solely on the issues at hand.

More Resources: 30 Best Cities for Physicians to Practice in 2024

Consider Mediation

In some cases, enlisting the help of a neutral third party can facilitate resolution. Consider involving a mediator, such as a trusted colleague or Human Resources, to help facilitate communication and find a mutually acceptable solution.

Follow Up

After reaching a resolution, follow up to ensure that all parties are satisfied with the outcome and that any agreed-upon actions are implemented. Regular check-ins can help prevent conflicts from resurfacing and reinforce a culture of open communication and collaboration.


Ready to start your physician job search? Contact the consultant in your specialty to get started.

Not ready to engage a consultant but ready to begin browsing? We have plenty of options around the country in all specialties.