DTC Competition: Reflecting on a Complaint with Lara Shoesmith

Next entry for my DTC competition is by Lara Shoesmith, who is studying at Leeds dental school, ft. Beryl the bunny!

Beryl the Bunny!

A smart rabbit that eats a poisonous plant will soon know to avoid it in the future, this is learning but curiously, it is not reflection.

What separates us from other animals is our open-ended ability to reflect and self-regulate; we can think about our own thinking. We owe part of our unique success as humans to this high level of metacognition and we should take great joy in these abilities. This should be kept in mind when reflecting on a complaint in the dental workplace as we all stand to gain from this distinctive brain function.

Reflection should not be exclusively for when things go wrong however a complaint can be difficult to shift from the mind and a good practitioner will endeavour to not make the same mistake twice. This begs a question then: should we reflect on all complaints made against us? Absolutely. Indeed, in making a complaint a patient has actually reflected themselves. They have undergone a series of thought processes on their experience and are now communicating this reflection to the practitioner.

What happened? How did they feel about this? What could have been done better?

Human communication (Latin commūnicāre, meaning "to share") is a joint enterprise between people to achieve a common goal. A patient communicating a complaint is therefore asking for some degree of reflection from the dental professional in response. In this way reflection for all complaints is key to good communication between patient and professional.

But of course, reflection is of great benefit to the practitioner. As Maslow[1] says, “each time one acts honestly or takes responsibility, one is actualising the self”. Self-actualisation can be considered the highest level of human psychological development. By reflecting, the practitioner can also find their strengths, build confidence and improve their delivery of care.

The power of reflection can be advantageous for all and practitioners should remind themselves of this even when receiving a complaint and appreciate the extraordinary cognitive capabilities given to humankind.

Look out for more entries for the competition coming soon!

[1]. Abraham Maslow fully expresses the theory of self-actualisation in his 1954 book Motivation and Personality.

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