Appendix D Conflict Management Strategies

Managing Conflict

Conflict is not uncommon on interprofessional teams, especially when there are diverse perspectives from multiple staff regarding patient care. Nurse leaders must be prepared to manage conflict to support the needs of their team members.

When conflict occurs, the DESC tool can be used to help resolve conflict by using “I statements.” DESC is a mnemonic that stands for the following[1]:

  • D: Describe the specific situation or behavior; provide concrete data.
  • E: Express how the situation makes you feel/what your concerns are using “I” statements.
  • S: Suggest other alternatives and seek agreement.
  • C: Consequences stated in terms of impact on established team goals while striving for consensus.

The DESC tool should be implemented in a private area with a focus on WHAT is right, not WHO is right. Read an example of a nurse using the DESC tool in the following box.

Example of Using the DESC Tool[2]

Situation: A physician became angry at a nurse who was inserting a patient’s Foley catheter and yelled at the nurse in front of the patient and other team members. The nurse later addressed the physician in a private area outside the patient’s room using the DESC tool and “I statements”:

D: “I noticed you got angry at me when I inserted the patient’s Foley catheter.”

E: “I’m concerned how you addressed that issue in front of the patient and three other staff members. It made me feel bad in front of the patient and my colleagues.”

S: “In the future, if you have an issue with how I do things, please pull me aside privately to discuss your concern.”

C: “Our organization has a policy for managing communication challenges among team members if we can’t agree on this alternative.”


  1. AHRQ. (2020, January). Pocket guide: TeamSTEPPS.
  2. AHRQ. (2020, January). Pocket guide: TeamSTEPPS.


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Leading Change in Health Systems: Strategies for RN-BSN Students Copyright © 2023 by Kathy Andresen DNP, MPH, RN, CNE is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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