Cornell University

Scheinman Institute on Conflict Resolution

456 ILR Research Building, 607-255-9298

Dispute Resolution in the Healthcare Industry

In keeping with its emphasis on the healthcare industry, the Scheinman Institute is advancing the study of dispute resolution in this setting through a research project on conflict management practices and procedures in hospitals.

Conducted as part of Ariel Avgar's dissertation work, this research project has examined the effects of hospital restructuring on workplace conflict and on the ways in which this conflict is managed and resolved. In addition, this study explores the organizational and individual outcomes associated with the use of different dispute resolution strategies in the hospital setting.

In this study, launched in June of 2005, Avgar conducted an in-depth case study of an Ohio hospital that had implemented an innovative dispute resolution system for its union and nonunion member as part of a Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) pilot program. In addition to the use of qualitative research methods, Avgar administered an original hospital workforce survey to 3,300 employees (with approximately 800 completed). This survey instrument has proven extremely fruitful in capturing some of the key predictors of hospital conflict and the manner in which employees resolve them.

Among the research findings, the study confirms a link between hospital restructuring and specific forms of conflict. This research also highlights the potential benefits of different conflict management options, where they are aligned with the conflicts they are intended to resolve. Finally, this project contributes to the understanding of the key motivations and challenges associated with the adoption of a conflict management strategy.