DTC Competition: Reflecting on a Complaint with Becca Johnston

Next entry for my DTC competition is from Becca Johnston from Newcastle University...

Becca, dental student based at Newcastle University

Receiving a complaint can be very stressful, upsetting and may cause you to lose confidence in your clinical skills. However, it is likely to happen at some point in a dental career.

Understand how the complaint arose. Was it due to a breakdown in communication between you and patient? Did the patient have unrealistic expectations of what their crown would look like or was the restoration completed substandard? Look out for patients who have negative body language or a dissatisfied tone of voice. Introducing patient surveys may help identify issues early.

Consider whether the complaint was handled effectively. Often if you are honest, empathetic and willing to listen, a verbal complaint can be dealt with at a local level without escalation. Being defensive can make the situation worse- a sincere apology isn’t an admission of guilt. Identifying the patient’s desired outcome is useful as this may range from an apology, reassurance an event will not happen again or financial compensation.

Analyse whether your response was timely, acknowledged the patient’s concerns and avoided jargon. Did you offer an appropriate solution? This may include resolving the problem at no extra cost. 

Reflect on how easy your complaints procedure was for the patient to access and use. Was information displayed in your waiting room or website? Did the patient know where to seek further help e.g. the citizens advice bureau? A confusing process can cause further aggravation.

Engage team members in the complaints protocol and encourage them to share their experiences to improve learning. Knowledge of the GDC standards regarding complaints and involving your defence organisation at an early stage is also beneficial.

Learning from the process and identifying improvements to make can minimise the chance of future complaints. Keep it patient centred and show you care!

Look out for more entries for the competition coming soon!

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