Patient Complained About Me


I'm in my last semester of nursing school and currently work as a clinic assistant. I've been at my current job as a clinic float for 3 years and was on track to have a great recommendation from my manager. I've been super stressed lately, and yesterday as I was working with a difficult patient I lost my cool--just a little bit (nothing too terrible, but I was definitely short with her). The patient proceeded to call the clinic and request the manager to report me. The manager wasn't in, but I let the patient know when should would be able to contact her.

I definitely could have done things differently. I've had excellent feedback consistently about my patient care and customer service since I started working there. I know how to handle a difficult patient and have handled many in the past. This one caught me off guard. I don't know the other staff at that clinic well, and they witnessed my less-than-stellar customer service. But, the two other clinic assistants also told me the patient had been very rude to them during the visit.

I'm really worried about my job, and about the manager's perception of me. I'm worried about having something negative happen so close to graduation, when I will be requesting references from my current employer. I know I was in the wrong (even with a difficult, rude patient) and I just want to do the best I can going forward. When I told my partner about this he said it has happened to everyone at least once. Has anyone else been in this situation? How did your manager react? What was the outcome?


104 Posts

Specializes in Med-Surg.

I wouldn't worry about it. Learn from it yes. Worry, no. Nothing to be done about it now. And if your performance has been as you stated in the past, I have a hard time believing you'd be dismissed or given a bad reference for 1 lapse in judgement. Don't beat yourself up, learn from it and how you would handle the situation differently next time!

And remember it's never ok for pts to be abusive, not saying that's what happened, but sometimes it's easy to forget and tolerate a lot cause of their pain etc.

Specializes in Medsurg/ICU, Mental Health, Home Health. Has 17 years experience.

Well, at least you know you're probably getting a complaint and have time to think about what to tell your manager. I've had patient interactions that I thought were fine, and MONTHS later got pulled into the office about them. I didn't remember the patients at all so I had nothing to say to explain why I said what I said or how I said it.

I really really doubt you'll lose your job over this. We all lose our cool every now and then. Go forth and sin no more. (I think you know what I mean)

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

226 Articles; 27,608 Posts

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 17 years experience.

Personally, I wouldn't sweat about this issue.....

Whenever a patient is being rude or pushing my buttons, I remove myself from the interaction. "Sir, this conversation is over. I'll be happy to return when you are ready to behave in an appropriate manner."


3,726 Posts

I would notify the manager myself that I blew it with a difficult situation and lost my composure, what caused it (from my end, not the patient's) and how I plan to avoid that from happening again. I sure wouldn't wait for the manager to hear it from my patient, that tells him/her that you didn't recognize your mishandling until confronted by it.


18 Posts

Thank you; I did. After the patient called the clinic, I immediately emailed the manager to give her a heads up--let her know that I got flustered and did not respond with patient-centered care, and if appropriate, would discuss it further with her. I'm just really upset (surprised) at myself for letting it happen in the first place.


3,726 Posts

Thank you; I did. After the patient called the clinic, I immediately emailed the manager to give her a heads up--let her know that I got flustered and did not respond with patient-centered care, and if appropriate, would discuss it further with her. I'm just really upset (surprised) at myself for letting it happen in the first place.

That's good. And like others have said, this has happened to everyone. It's how you respond to it that speaks to your emotional maturity and how your manager can predict you will handle yourself in the future.

Beating yourself up isn't productive, it won't fix anything (even though we all do that as well). Instead, think about how and why it came about and how you will successfully avoid it going forward.


1 Article; 615 Posts

Specializes in Healthcare risk management and liability.

Speaking as the manager who ends up talking to the unhappy patients, when they want to elevate it to the Administration level, I would not worry too much about it. I appreciate it when the staff calls or emails me with a heads-up, so I get to hear your side of it before I call the patient. Sometimes I end up chatting with the staff member over how things went and how they can perhaps have things go better next time. We must not forget that no matter how patient-centered we are, sometimes the patients are dipsticks.


1,761 Posts

Specializes in Neuro, Telemetry. Has 8 years experience.

As a CNA, I yelled at a patient once. I'm pretty easy going and it really takes a lot to get under my skin. My managers and coworkers have always known that about me. I am nice and peachy to even the rudest patients when others are at their wits end. But one day, I just lost it. It wasn't even the rudest patient I've encountered. I guess it was just a bad day. I didn't call them names or anything, but I did raise my voice an give a nasty look as I told them to stop with the attitude or I would refuse to care for them and they would have to wait for another CNA to be available.

I I knew what I did was wrong immediately. I know I should never threaten a patient or be cross with them. It was a bad lapse in judgement and I let myself get caught up in the moment. I immediately went to my nurse and let them know what happened because I was sure the patient would complain about me. They had me write an incident report in case this didn't get brought up until down the road.

A few days later I was given a verbal warning by my ADON over the incident and that was that. Because I had been honest about it and have never had any issue with patient complaints, nothing else ever came of it.

Basically, if you have a squeaky clean record and are usually very friendly and management know that, there is likely nothing going to come of this. Nobody is perfect and we all make bad decisions sometimes. The key is to own your mistake and learn from it.


527 Posts

I think your doing the right thing, health care workers are human and have emotions, we just need to learn how to deal with those emotions professionally. If I feel myself becoming really upset( this usually happens when multiple family memebers of patient are verbally attacking me), I will simply remove myself from the situation. I tend to find that family members often push my buttons more so than the patients themselves so when I deal with them I tread carefully.


55 Posts

Do not worry about it, were all human and can't be perfect in every situation. You might find yourself in a situation later on in your professional setting that sometimes patients need you to be tough on them to push them to get better. Live and learn, everyone loses their cool once or twice in their career.

Specializes in ICU, CARDIOLOGY.

I've learned to kill them with kindness. The ruder they are the nicer I am. I find this works wonders. They end up eating out of my hands like little puppies. And it doesn't make me want to stab them in the eye with a pencil.