Ask the expert: Help new nurses respond to patient complaints

Staff Development Weekly: Insight on Evidence-Based Practice in Education, July 10, 2009

This week, Jo-Ann C. Byrne, RN, BS, MHSA, and Frances M. Moore, RNC, BSN, MSA, discuss how to help new graduate nurses respond to patients when they express complaints.

Q: Our new graduate nurses tell me they don't know what to say when patients complain to them. What should I teach these nurses?

A: Providing nurses with scripted responses helps them feel comfortable when replying to patients' complaints. Remind them to always introduce themselves, as identifying themselves as someone with authority provides the patient or family member the opportunity to voice a concern or complaint that he or she might not feel comfortable telling another staff member.

"Mrs. Vandemer, I'm Annabelle Case, the nurse in charge for 4 East. I understand you wanted to see me. Can you tell me about your concerns?"

When listening to a patient complaint, sit down if a seat is available. This lets patients know you have time and are there to listen. Never trivialize this interaction. No matter the complaint, it would be appropriate to say one of the following:

  • "Mrs. Vandemer, I appreciate you bringing this to my attention and I will let the department manager know of your concern."
  • "Mrs. Vandemer, I'm so glad you made me aware of this. I will take steps right now to ensure that it is corrected."
  • "Mrs. Vandemer, thank you for bringing this to my attention. I will investigate this further and let you know what I find."

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