Nurses Guide to Negotiations: How to Make It Work
By: American Nurses Association
Nursing is as much about negotiation as it is about patient care. Nurses negotiate with patients, with families, with physicians, and with other nurses—all day, every day.
Here are a few tips to help you when you find yourself in a situation that needs negotiation.
Ultimatums are a no-no: “You better do this or else” is a surefire way for the other party to choose “or else.” No one wants to be backed into a corner or feel like they have no choice. If you find yourself ready to issue an ultimatum, you’re losing control of the negotiation. Try a different strategy.
Use your opponent’s words: This has multiple benefits. It forces you to reflect on, and validate, what the other person is saying or asking for, it allows for clarification of any potential misunderstanding, and it gives you time to think.
Ask lots of questions: Try to get away from definitive statements like “I’m right and here’s why,” and move toward “Why is this important to you?” or “What about this concerns you the most?” A patient may not be using a medical device because it’s too difficult. Or they are afraid of the overall cost. Once you get to the point of an issue, you can address the problem, rather than wasting a lot of time going back and forth.
Find points of agreement: Anyone will greatly benefit from feeling heard and validated. Such statements as “I agree with your point, let’s work together to find a resolution,” will open up the conversation to finding solutions to the actual problem at hand.
Focus on the patient: An OB-GYN wants to consult on a patient with signs of early labor, but you have just gotten the patient settled after several hours of agitation. The exam isn’t urgent, but the doctor is adamant that the consult be done before moving on to other demands. Rather than refuse by stating, “I will not allow anyone to disturb this patient,” you can say, “This patient has been agitated for hours. Disturbing her now will cause undue stress and anxiety. She will benefit most from a consult later in the day.” The issue is no longer about what you—the nurse—wants, but what the patient needs. That’s a lot harder to argue with.
These are just a few ways to deal with matters that might take negotiation. But always remember: listen first, try to be empathetic, work toward a resolution, and put the patient first.
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