A guide for registered nurses in the ER and Staff Nurses

Welcome back to our 3 part series on handling patient grievances in different healthcare settings. In previous weeks, we brought you the most common complaints in physicians’ offices and outpatient centers, then sore spots most heard in nursing home facilities, and now this final installment offering constructive responses to some of the most commonly voiced hospital complaints.

Because rating systems and well-publicized top provider lists are old hat in the medical community, “report cards” motivate doctors and registered nurses alike to improve nurse patient relationships and patient doctor communication. The general public is more aware than ever, of how one hospital  measures up against another; how ER nurses and staff nurses compare from one medical center to the next, and who to share these experiences with—albeit positive or negative—that inevitably effects a hospital’s bottom line.

When it comes to hospital complaints, effective service recovery requires a compassionate ear, smart solutions and, in the best-case scenario, both of these things. Communication is everything; when it’s done right, patients exude trust and confidence, and they are more likely to cooperate with a treatment plan, ideal because its been supplemented by listening intently to what the patient has to say.

Staff nurses are a critical part of doctor patient communication. Because the patient shares details of his pitfalls and progress with you, it is your responsibility to pass the medical information on to the nurse manager and attending physician; that being said, many of your responses to patients’ hospital complaints should include the phrase: “I’m glad you brought this up.”

Here are 5 common hospital complaints and appeasements offered by experts in healthcare staffing:

Issue #1: “I’ve been waiting in this Emergency Room for hours! When will I get a room in this hospital?”
Smart service recovery: I’m glad you let me know. We need to improve. Is there anything I can do as your ER nurse to make you more comfortable, or anyone I can call for you? I’ll see if I can make some calls and see when your room will be ready.

Issue #2: “The food being served to me at this hospital is just terrible—it’s tasteless.”
Smart service recovery: Your nutrition is vital to your recovery, so I’m glad you said something. Let’s sit down with your doctor and nutritionist and see what can be done to spice things up.

Issue #3: “The staff nurses won’t help me to the bathroom.”
Smart service recovery: I’m sorry to hear that—this should not be happening. Have you met the nurse manager on this floor? We should ask her to remind the staff nurses that helping you to the restroom is a priority. I am happy to assist you.

Issue #4: “I’m being discharged from the hospital very soon and don’t have a clue how to go on with things without nurses around to help.”
Smart service recovery: It sounds like you’re worried about going home—but don’t be. I’m glad you’re voicing your concerns; let’s share them with your doctor prior to discharge.

Issue #5: “Everything the doctor’s been telling me, for instance, that I can have my catheter removed or get out of bed, hasn’t happened yet.”
Smart service recovery: I’m sorry to hear that, but I’m glad you told me. It means you’re feeling well enough to get things going. Please tell me everything about your doctor’s last visit and I’ll check her last orders.

We hope that in review of these issues, ER nurses, staff nurses or any professional working closely with patients in a hospital setting will recognize a constant: that service recovery begins with understanding what a complaint really represents; to do that, nurse patient relationships stand on asking the right questions, to patients trusting enough to supply thoughtful and truthful answers. Nurses who are good listeners improve quality of care. End of story—and a happy one at that!

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