DTC Competition: Reflecting on a Complaint with Rachel Chan

Next entry for my DTC competition is from Rachel Chan from Newcastle University...

Rachel, dental student from Newcastle University

Receiving a complaint is one of the most daunting aspects of patient feedback that dental students fear. Or at least, something I found intimidating! 

I would strive to avoid complaints at all cost because I believed that receiving a complaint proved that I was not capable of being a good dentist. Thankfully, by listening to my peers and experienced dentists, my thoughts have changed since starting clinics in 3rd year. 

Everyone deals with complaints differently. Instead of being demoralised by complaints, I am learning to view them as constructive criticism to better my skills, whether they be practical or interpersonal. Once, my patient complained that I apologised too often, making him feel uncomfortable. At the time, I felt incredibly embarrassed. This experience taught me to change my communication methods; rather than apologising for taking too long, I thanked him for his patience. 

Of course, some complaints can come unwarranted or are irrelevant. For example, one patient commented that they did not like my scrub colour, which does not influence my dental ability at all. We must learn how to decipher and pick out beneficial feedback that can help develop and improve our skills. Remember, do not take things too personally. While it is great to be passionate about dentistry and your patients, some patient-dentist relationships aren’t meant to be – which is fine! As cheesy as it sounds, there is a dentist for every patient out there. 

A great piece of advice from a clinician; At the end of the day, we are providing a service. We are not hired to be their best friend, therapist or hero. It is important to learn from constructive criticism and accept complaints gracefully in order to provide the best care for our patients. We are only human after all – Humans who love teeth! 🦷

Look out for more entries for the competition coming soon!

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