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Jane Bates: Keep complaints in perspective

Some complaints are caused by a simple misunderstanding, so don't take them too much to heart, says Jane Bates. 

Some complaints are caused by a simple misunderstanding, so don't take them too much to heart, says Jane Bates


Criticism can hurt, but as a professional, try not to take it personally. Picture: iStock

A while ago, a team of colleagues received a complaint. They are a highly efficient bunch: thoughtful, caring, the kind of people who are constantly praised by patients for their good practice, so the complaint came as a surprise to all. 

It was nothing serious, but the team were too upset to see it for what it was, a misunderstanding rather than a mishap. And, boy, did they beat themselves up about it. The criticism hurt deeply, and each of them had at least one sleepless night. 

The complaint was taken to heart, the situation analysed to shreds, and the details picked to bits. They reflected, listed ideas for improvement and tried to pull positives out of the mire. 

Disproportionate reaction

Time passed and they were able to report that 'lessons were learned.' But looking back, I can't help but wonder about the disproportionate reaction from management and the team themselves. 

Any outsider could see the complaint was unjustified; a storm in a teacup, quite trivial in the great scheme of things, with no harm done. 

Health professionals are expected to get everything right, and we expect that of ourselves, but we are only human. That goes for the complainants too – they read situations wrongly and make poor judgements, which has to be taken into consideration.   

Substandard practice must of course be reported and dealt with, but in this case no one was actually at fault. The pity was they had to go through so much anguish to reach that conclusion.  


About the author 

 

 

 

Jane Bates is an ophthalmic nurse in Hampshire 

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