I think it’s safe to say that conflict can happen in any workplace and workplace conflict is no stranger to the stressful world of Home Care.
Conflict is defined as “a condition in which a person experiences a clash of opposing wishes or needs”. Conflict can be everywhere in our industry; between clients and their families, between caregivers and clients, between caregivers and supervisors, etc. Being in such a delicate role and dealing with the whole array of human emotions and conditions can be a tightrope walk. Conflict is inevitable, but having the right coping skills, a good process, good management, and the right policies is key to minimizing the impact that these conflicts can have on everyone.
Real Life Example
One situation we use to teach and train our caregivers (based on real events) is a conflict where we had a caregiver whom had reported to their supervisor her concern regarding tension between herself and her client, particularly on outings as well as inappropriate behaviour from the client towards the caregiver.
These are some of the most difficult conflicts to manage. Your client is your business and has hired you to provide care; the safety and well-being of your caregiver are also just as important as your client’s. So how do you handle conflict in these situations?
One method for conflict resolution we have found to be effective, is the SBAR method. SBAR stands for Situation, Background, Assessment, and Recommendation. There are many resources online available discussing the SBAR system or if it’s something you are interested in learning more about, our coaches and consultants can help you master some of these techniques.
Here is how the SBAR system works with the above conflict:
- Situation – There have been incidents where the client has spoken inappropriately towards the caregiver on outings.
- Background – Caregiver is concerned regarding client’s safety, caregiver’s safety, and deterioration of the relationship.
- Assessment – Supervisory visit and conversation with the client regarding the concerns and safety of the client. Client does not like having the caregiver dressed in her uniform when escorting her on outings as she does not want everyone to know she needs a caregiver.
- Recommendation – Took all relevant information forward to the Home Care Team to see what we can do differently. Suggestions from the Team included having the caregiver not wear their uniform on outings, but dressing professionally, so as not to embarrass the client.
You can see the above situation has had a fairly easy conflict resolve, but it was based on good communication from the caregiver to the supervisor, discussions with the team and the client, and sitting down to create the best possible environment for the caregiver and the client.
There are situations where SBAR does not always work, and that the problems are not easily solvable. In situations not resolved, it is important to reinforce the message of communication with the Team. Encourage them to say, I am still concerned for my client’s condition, I am still uncomfortable with my client’s condition, I believe the safety of my client is at risk, or I don’t know what to do.
Empower Your Staff
Empowering your caregivers through training, ensuring that your staff know the chain of command, know the policies and procedures you have put in place will be the most effective weapon you have against conflicts. Having regularly scheduled field visits by a supervisor will help identify tension and concerns quickly before they escalate. Having this supervisor as a third party enables someone removed from the situation to assess and provide solutions by not being emotionally involved.
Open and honest communication will always be the biggest asset and building your company culture around that will help everyone be successful.
Caregiver education is one of the best investments you can make in your company. The Home Care Academy is the place for flexible, convenient, education resources and training that can fir your staff’s busy schedule and help them be the best caregivers and nurses they can be.