Conflict resolution styles and skills and variation among medical students

Rathnayaka M.Kalpanee D. Gunasingha*, Hui Jie Lee, Congwen Zhao, Alison Clay

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Conflict is inevitable on healthcare teams, yet few professional school curricula teach or assess conflict resolution skills. Little is known about the variation in conflict resolution styles across medical students and how these styles might impact conflict resolution skills. Methods: This is a prospective, single blinded, group randomized quasi experimental trial to assess the impact of knowing one’s own conflict resolution style on conflict resolution skills in a simulated encounter. Graduating medical students completed a mandatory conflict resolution session with standardized patients acting as nurses during a transition to residency course. Coaches reviewed videotapes of the simulation, focusing on students’ skills with negotiation and emotional intelligence. Retrospectively, we assessed the impact of the students knowing their conflict resolution style prior to simulation, student gender, race, and intended field of practice on conflict resolution skills as judged by coaches. Results: One hundred and eight students completed the simulated conflict session. Sixty-seven students completed the TKI before the simulated patient (SP) encounter and 41 after. The most common conflict resolution style was accommodating (n = 40). Knowing one’s conflict resolution style in advance of the simulation and one’s identified race/ethnicity did not impact skill as assessed by faculty coaches. Students pursuing diagnosis-based specialties had higher negotiation (p = 0.04) and emotional quotient (p = 0.006) scores than those pursuing procedural specialties. Females had higher emotional quotient scores (p = 0.02). Conclusions: Conflict resolution styles vary among medical students. Male gender and future practice in a procedural specialty impacted conflict resolution skills but knowing conflict resolution style did not.

Original languageEnglish
Article number246
JournalBMC Medical Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Conflict resolution
  • Conflict resolution style
  • Entrustability
  • Undergraduate medical education


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