Having a complaint voiced about your clinical care can be devastating, says Malisa Pierri
I know that when a complaint is voiced you can feel extremely isolated and emotionally shattered
Over the past few years, the media has been littered with headlines highlighting increasing concerns over clinical care in the NHS. The Francis report placed nursing at the core of systemic failures in the delivery of care. Complaints against nurses are on the increase – in 2011, the Nursing Midwifery Council reported complaints were up 57% on 2010’s figures.
Negligent, uncompassionate care – by act or omission – must always be dealt with immediately.
I find it so hard to believe that any nurse would purposefully neglect or mistreat the very people that we been trained and institutionalised to care for. However, we must, with a heavy heart, acknowledge that this has occurred and ensure that we will always do our best to see it never happens again.
The majority of nurses take great pride in their work. However, we should realise that we work in very emotive environments and, at times, cannot meet the expectations of the NHS. Complaints will, therefore, be inevitable.
Nurses are increasingly being asked to make statements about complaints and being at the centre of them.
Having a complaint voiced about your clinical care by a patient, family, colleague or manager is nothing short of devastating. From experience, I know that when a complaint is voiced you can feel extremely isolated and emotionally shattered.
Initially, you find yourself questioning your practice excessively, professionally crippled by the insecurity that it causes. This causes further distress because you feel ineffective and fearful of causing harm in a role you are expected to fulfil daily.
While ensuring proper investigations are undertaken when concerns are raised, we must also make sure that nurses are given appropriate and adequate support throughout the process. The tragic death of Jacintha Saldanha should serve as a stark representation of the potential impact that being at the centre of an investigation into clinical practice can have.
These situations are not something that nurses prepare for but help is available to guide us through.
One of the most common sources of information used to investigate complaints will be witness statements. Preparing these can be a daunting experience but a plethora of guidance is available from nursing organisations. Their local representatives can review statements before final submission.
It is not always possible to talk through the process with those you work alongside. Talking through what is happening with somebody who has been through the process themselves can be helpful.
For some, the emotional strain of being involved in a complaint can affect their personal life. It is important to listen to families and friends around us who are at times more likely to recognise the early signs of distress. Ensuring that help is sought sooner rather than later is important for both personal and professional long-term health. Counselling will be available and, if preferred, can be accessed externally.
The nature of nursing means we are often connected more emotionally to our patients than other health professionals, which is why complaints can be so shattering. I would encourage everyone, including those in the nursing media, to ensure that, in our response to the ongoing ramifications of the Francis report, we do not create hysteria around complaints and ensure a fair process for all.