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How Nurse Leaders Can Solve Work Related Challenges

Throughout your career, as you have gained experience as a nurse, you have likely noticed how other nurse leaders handle challenges. As you have taken on leadership roles yourself, you may have striven to emulate good points you noticed and avoid bad practices. However, room for improvement may still exist in the way you approach challenges.

This guide examines how SWOT analysis can play a role in your career as well as how you can handle organizational conflict. Although these concepts are most often found in the business world, they can also have applications within a health care setting.

What Is SWOT?

A nurse team.
Image via Flickr by Army Medicine

Writing for the National Institute of Health, Dr. Douglas Blayney stated, “The SWOT analysis… is a useful and time-tested leadership skill… the SWOT analysis is a structured, systematic way of thinking about and exploring areas for business development, for resource deployment (including physical, personal, and intellectual resources), and areas of vulnerability needing improvement or development.”

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Writing for Leadership Thoughts, Martin Webster defined each of these aspects. To paraphrase Webster:

  • Strengths are factors within your control that you do well
  • Weaknesses are factors within your control that could be improved upon
  • Opportunities are situations outside your business that you could use to your advantage
  • Threats are factors beyond your control that could present a risk to your organization

How to Conduct a SWOT Analysis

Webster recommends that you begin the analysis by brainstorming lists under each of the SWOT categories. Every item you write down should have evidence to back it up. For example, if you mark that compassion is a strength of nurses under your charge, why do you believe that? Have you received direct feedback from patients or their families that reflects this? Do not spend a lot of time analyzing your lists; the brainstorming session is merely a first step in the SWOT process.

Then, Webster suggests that you answer and ask the following questions:

  1. How do you use your strengths to take advantage of opportunities?
  2. How do you overcome weaknesses preventing you from taking advantage of opportunities?
  3. How can your strengths reduce the probability of threats?
  4. What can you do about your weaknesses to make the threats less likely?

Ultimately, a SWOT analysis should help you determine where your organization stands and where you would like it to end up. It can be used as a tool to help you reach your goals and make decisions about any number of things. For example, you may use a strength, such as good leadership, to address a weakness, such as a lack of a sufficient training program for new hires within your department or clinic.

You may find it useful to set measurable, concrete goals as they relate to your analysis. As you work toward achieving those goals, you can adjust your analysis to reflect your organization’s current state of being.

Handling Organizational Conflict

One weakness that your SWOT analysis might identify could relate to conflict within your organization. This could be between nurses, between a physician and nurses, or between anyone else who works at your facility.

An article on the National Institute of Health website notes, “Research demonstrates that training in conflict resolution skills can result in improved teamwork, productivity, and patient and employee satisfaction.” The article noted that while there are several possible responses to conflict, collaboration and compromise often result in positive outcomes.

Among the steps the authors outlined to handle conflict are the following:

  • Decide whether to address the conflict at all. What will be the price of addressing the conflict, and what is the possible benefit? In some cases, it may be advisable not to address minor conflicts. Also, timing is important. If you speak in anger, you may later regret the way you handled the situation.
  • Understand the nature of the conflict. Was it a one-time issue, or has a pattern developed?
  • What is the position of each person involved in the conflict? What are each person’s goals and motivations?
  • Establish a safe environment where there is mutual respect and mutual purpose.
  • Do not try to soften the message by being overly familiar or by mixing in complimentary statements. The other person may feel distrustful because of this.

Another article, this one posted on Emerging RN Leader, gave further tips for managing conflict:

  • Agree to ground rules for the discussion that all parties can accept
  • Allow everyone to express the problem from their point of view
  • Look for common ground
  • Keep the lines of communication open

The steps you take for handling conflict are likely to be different from situation to situation. Your actions may depend on who is involved in the conflict, what is at stake, and your own position relative to that of others who are affected by the issue.

DNPs and Work Related Challenges

If you are working toward achieving your DNP degree, your future career is likely to involve many aspects of nursing leadership, including systems management, quality improvement, and data-driven decision making, according to This makes it different from other terminal nursing degree programs, which may focus on such things as research skills or the clinical application of advanced nursing knowledge. also noted, “As the U.S. healthcare system continues to evolve, DNPs in clinical practice are expected to take on larger roles in problem-solving and advocacy, as well as liaison with other areas of medicine and other medical professionals.” The ability to conduct SWOT analyses and resolve conflict may prove crucial for nurse leaders who are taking on these key responsibilities.

Are you interested in earning your DNP degree? Furthering your education could lead you to new and exciting places in your career. Learn more about your options by visiting Maryville University’s Online Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program.