Addressing Mistakes & Complaints: Some Helpful Do's & Don'ts


Plain and simple, we’re all human, and we all make mistakes. Unfortunately, in the world of healthcare making a mistake can sometimes be a life or death matter. To be sure, mistakes and patient complaints should all be taken seriously—they can result in the loss of licenses, litigation, or serious smear campaigns against you and your facility.

Here are some basic tips to help protect you and your organization through a patient complaint:


  • Dismiss complaints or allegations as frivolous, meritless or an outright fabrication by the patient. Treat patient complaints seriously, and follow your organization’s protocol in every instance.
  • Make public comments. This includes making statements to the media or making comments on social or professional networking sites. Avoiding public comments ensures that your message isn’t misconstrued and it also helps ensure that your integrity (as well as your organization’s) is protected.
  • Alter or destroy records. You may supplement or add to records, but altering or destroying records that show errors or omissions is not ethical. Clearly note the date and reasons for any supplement, amendment or addendum.


  • Everything you can to ensure the complaint is escalated and reported according to company policy. Take every complaint seriously.
  • Be thoughtful and responsive. Don’t ever lash out at a patient. If a patient is vocal or has made a formal complaint, always maintain your professional decorum.
  • Be cooperative and honest. Take notes of the incident so that you can provide accurate details. This will help ensure you give an honest account of the complaint.
  • Please keep in mind that these tips are not intended to replace legal advice. Always seek management’s guidance and/or legal counsel when in doubt.

“Success does not consist in never making mistakes
but in never making the same one a second time.”
—George Bernard Shaw