How to write a statement of events
It's easy to panic if your employer asks you to write a statement but it's important to stay calm and follow these tips
For most nurses, being asked to provide a formal statement of events is not something that happens regularly. It may only happen once or twice in your career, if at all, but it is still an emotional and scary experience.
When driving past a police car, some people can experience illogical thoughts such as ‘what have I done wrong?’ or ‘what’s the matter with my car?’ Similarly, when your line manager asks for a written statement, it is likely you will think you are to blame for what has happened, even if this isn't the case.
Seek professional advice
There are many reasons why a statement may be required, including medication errors or adverse reactions, incidents in the workplace, complaints, or the sudden death of a patient. Sometimes you will have been directly involved – if a complaint has been made about you or you made a clinical error, for example. Other times you may have been indirectly involved, if you witnessed an incident, for example.
Your mind may be buzzing, but make sure you understand what you have been asked to do and why, even if this means asking your manager to repeat it or write it down for you.
At this stage, it is advisable to consider whether you need support from a union representative or other professional body.
Advice is available online to help you structure your statement, including guidance from the RCN. Hard as it is, you must put your emotions to one side – if your thoughts are jumbled up, you won’t be able to write a clear and accurate account of events.
Simple steps to a successful statement
- Find somewhere you won’t be disturbed so you have the time and space you need to write up your statement
- Inform a senior colleague where you are and ask if they are free for a chat when you are finished. Knowing someone is around to support you can help you put your emotions on hold
- Make sure you have had something to eat and drink. You won’t be able to concentrate if your blood sugar is low
- Stick to the facts as you saw them, and don’t get muddled by what you have heard other colleagues say. Closing your eyes and replaying what’s happened in your mind can help. Writing in the first person (‘I did...’) is useful and makes your statement easier to read
- Avoid ambiguity or guesswork. If you are unsure of anything, be honest and say so. Don’t make judgments or blame anyone, including yourself. As you are writing, ask yourself: ‘is this a fact or my opinion?'
- If you feel anxious, upset or angry, stand up, move around and take long, deep breaths to help re-centre your thoughts. A short break can help but try not to put off the task for too long. Believe it or not, you will feel relieved once this part of the process is over.
Regardless of the circumstances, writing a statement is professionally and emotionally challenging. If you are in the middle of a shift, you may want to move on to your next task and put it to the back of your mind for the time being, but make sure you get the support you need and take time to reflect.
Mandy Day-Calder is a freelance writer and health/life coach
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