For Leaders in Healthcare

Southern Methodist University's Graduate Certificate in Healthcare Collaboration and Conflict Engagement is a three-course cohort program designed for physicians, nurses, administrative professionals, human resource professionals or those who see healthcare leadership roles in their future. The program provides leaders the opportunity to challenge their thinking in a constructive environment surrounded by peers and colleagues. We believe this is an ideal setting to increase and enhance conflict engagement and collaboration skills.

Program Highlights

Upheaval in the healthcare setting has become the norm, and will continue into the foreseeable future. Included in this are conflicts between patients and their providers, between patients, providers, and facilities, between healthcare professionals themselves, between financial and administrative personnel, between researchers and funders, and between the communities served and the organizations that serve them, to name a few. On the other hand, the healthcare leader with insight and equipped with new skills will be prepared to meet the challenges of this shifting environment.

While there are a number of ways to consider healthcare leadership in this climate of change, our program focuses upon evidence-based social science, engagement and collaborative skills, fundamentals of neuroscience, emotional and social intelligence, as well as an understanding of the fundamental concepts of conflict and how it escalates and de-escalates.

Conflict Management Core Competencies

Recognize: Leaders in healthcare can enhance their conflict engagement skills by being able to recognize the classic constructive and destructive conflict models. Understanding the models empowers the leader to be able to consider the likely and predictable pattern of a conflict and how it can be resolved.

Engage: It is one thing to know about conflict and the classical models of understanding it, but being able to engage constructively in conflict is another matter. Constructive engagement skills can be learned by healthcare leaders to allow them to sustain through a conflict to resolution through productive dialogue and thoughtful decision making.

Coach: Being able to become a conflict coach for different persons involved in healthcare can be complex. A thoughtful leader in healthcare today should be able to see through difficult conversations in many different topics and interests.

Facilitate: Regardless of autonomy, status, or role, being able to facilitate dialogue in conflict is a critical skill for modern healthcare leaders. Being able to engage diverse communities in healthcare and to stay with conflict as it emerges and progresses is a critical skill.

Presence: Today’s leaders in healthcare are facing complex challenges. Bringing an ethical and thoughtful balance to healthcare management is an important aspect of leading in healthcare.

Course Descriptions

Introduction to Conflict in Healthcare Settings

This course begins with an overview of three models used to engage in conflict, all of which are directly applicable in most healthcare settings. First, participants will learn the “prevent, resolve, or contain model” for conflict engagement. Then, participants will apply their understanding of conflict and consider the constructive and destructive conflict models. The course will provide engagement through simulated exercises, role plays and class discussion. Using these methods for diagnostic thinking, participants will then learn treatment strategies and tactics appropriate to the circumstances. Particular attention will be paid to the roles of the patient, provider and organization with a special emphasis on the patient.

Engaging with Conflict in the Healthcare Workplace

The healthcare workplace is complex and constantly changing. Pressures on individual providers of care can lead to a myriad of conflicts. Many healthcare organizations struggle with provider-administration trust, physician-nurse relations, and patient satisfaction. In this course, participants will explore challenging, high stakes relationships that affect all healthcare stakeholders. Students will focus on the complex and potentially adversarial interactions among patients, providers, and organizations, with an emphasis on provider contribution. Specific problems such as bullying, burnout, disruptive behavior, nonproductive communication, and resistance to change will be addressed. Participants will develop and use a number of skills drawn from negotiation, mediation, facilitation, and executive coaching to address these and other critical healthcare conflict issues. Assigned readings will be augmented with class exercises and pertinent case studies.

The New Role of the Healthcare Leader – Managing Change, Culture and Conflict

Of all the competencies healthcare leaders will need for the present and the future, managing culture change will be among the most important. Using case studies, readings, assessments and skills practice, this course will build on the previous classes and focus on building self-awareness and identifying ways to successfully interact with others, deal with resistance to change, and fit one’s managerial style to the situation and individual. In addition, participants will learn the role Human Resources can play to help them facilitate change and align culture.

The ability to lead in healthcare organizations is a developed skill and requires self-awareness and training. Participants will consider the patient, as well as the providers, but will focus a great deal of time on the organizational challenges of the changing healthcare landscape. Self-awareness work will lead to discussion on how participants interact with others and how to fit one’s management style to the task at hand. Through specific role plays and exercises designed from a Human Resources perspective, participants will learn to adapt the organizational culture and dynamic to address the healthcare workplace today and in the future.

Our Faculty

John Potter, Clinical Assistant Professor, Southern Methodist University

John Potter, OD, MA is an active practitioner in dispute resolution and conflict management. He has mediated more than 3,000 disputes with most of those occurring in the healthcare field. In addition, Dr. Potter has worked with a number of organizations, both public and private, in conflict resolution. He received his Doctor of Optometry from Indiana University, and his Master of Arts in Dispute Resolution from Southern Methodist University and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry, and a Distinguished Clinical Scholar at the State University of New York’s State College of Optometry. Dr. Potter has been quoted in Readers Digest, the Wall Street Journal, and the Asian Wall Street Journal, as well as other national and international publications.

Who Should Apply

Physicians, Healthcare Administrators and Nurses should apply for the cohort graduate specialization program. In addition, other types of healthcare professionals who see healthcare leadership roles in their future should consider applying as well.


The SMU Graduate Certificate in Healthcare Collaboration and Conflict Engagement offers a flexible graduate program to fit even the busiest healthcare leader’s schedule. Each course in the three-course cohort program is conducted over two weekends (Friday-Sunday). A sample degree plan and timeline has been offered to assist with planning. 


For the Cost of Attendance (tuition), visit the Bursar's webpage. Participants agree to complete all three courses; however, participants will register and pay for each course during the registration period for the corresponding term.

To Apply

To begin the online application for the graduate program, visit our Apply Now page. A baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution of higher education is required. Also, you must submit official transcripts from all institutions of higher education previously attended.. A non-refundable application fee payable to SMU must be paid at submission.


If you have any questions regarding the program, please contact Breya White at or call 214-768-4513.