Analysis of complaints sent to the health service ombudsman has found that not receiving an adequate apology is the most common complaint, accounting for a third of cases last year.
As we know from our home lives, if someone says sorry it means they have acknowledged how you feel and taken note of your concerns. You are not invisible and you can move forward.
However, maybe it is harder to say sorry in a work environment; it can feel more complicated and more significant. Reluctance to say sorry may be related to fear that by doing so you have accepted you were at fault, and that accepting fault may have ramifications.
Useful RCN guidance clarifies this issue. Good Practice for Handling Feedback encourages an open, friendly and honest response to a complaint. And says on the issue of saying sorry: “Offering an apology does not constitute an acceptance of responsibility. In many cases an apology will help you to manage the immediate problem of someone wanting to share their bad experience with someone who cares, so that hopefully you can ensure that it doesn’t reoccur.”
Nursing revalidation is coming next year and will require, among other things, nurses to provide five pieces of practice-related feedback. But of course as these complaints figures show, not all feedback is good. So gather all your positive feedback for revalidation, but more importantly, think of how to deal most appropriately with negative feedback. Sorry might seem like the hardest word but it appears to be the best.