It can be stressful when a complaint is brought to your attention. How you respond to it can make a significant difference – to you, the patient, and the credibility of the profession. It’s crucial to have a clear, visible, and accessible policy in place not only to respond promptly and effectively to the concerns but also to avoid escalation. Everyone has the right to complain, being prepared will help provide a more effective professional response rather than potentially a defensive and reactionary one.
When a patient raises a complaint, a prompt and an open approach to understanding it from their perspective may well achieve a more effective outcome for all. You should always be respectful, understanding, and clear in your communication.
Sometimes the patient would benefit from talking to a more senior colleague. If that’s relevant to your employment situation, consider bringing in a senior staff member as a support. While complaints can be unpleasant, they provide useful learning and opportunity for improvement. Being prepared and having records of what you’ve done to recognise and respond to the patient’s concerns will be invaluable if the issue is not resolved and escalates.
A feedback loop allows all staff to benefit from the learning and be more confident when a challenging situation occurs again. Have a debrief meeting with all staff and either make changes to procedures or create new ones and train staff accordingly.
Lastly, have a process in place to support any staff member who has a complaint raised about them. It’s important to recognise this can be a stressful time for the staff member and they should be supported in their response. You can also seek advice or support from a colleague or mentor, preferably someone outside your workplace who can offer a different perspective.
Published 16 December 2022