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Patient and family complaints


Patient and family complaints are addressed promptly with empathy and understanding


+ Complaints in practice

  • Common patient complaints in a clinical setting include those related to:
    • Members of the healthcare team
    • The environment
    • Departmental efficiency (e.g., time spent waiting)
    • Harmful incidents
    • Aspects of patient care

  • Situations are handled before the patient leaves the department whenever possible.
  • MRTs are responsible for being familiar with and following facility complaints policy, if one is in place.
  • The department that deals with patient relations can be contacted for guidance when responding to a complaint.

+ Responding to complaints

  • First, time is taken to fully acknowledge the concern being voiced:
    • Listen fully to the complaint
    • Give open and positive responses
    • Ask questions to ensure understanding
    • Avoid taking a defensive approach
    • Try to see from the patient's perspective

  • Once the complaint has been heard and understood, a conversation about possible resolution takes place:
    • Offer suggestions and discuss whether the solutions are acceptable
    • Give clear and honest explanations throughout, while considering the person’s ability to understand, as well as their culture
    • Take action to implement the solution offered
    • Confirm satisfaction with the response, or if not, that the matter will be taken further
    • Document the complaint and actions taken

  • Consider patient privacy at all times while also ensuring personal safety (i.e., ensuring others are close by in case of emergency)
  • If a patient alleges that his/her rights have been violated:
    • Alert the supervisor
    • Document the incident as per facility policy

+ Learning from the complaint process

  • Responding to complaints can also benefit the facility by:2
    • Improving safety and quality of care
    • Restoring the trust and confidence of patients and those who care for them
    • Increasing efficiency through quick and simple resolution of complaints
    • Promoting a culture of reporting and accountability
    • Creating a more satisfactory working environment
    • Building a reputation as a learning organization


  • An external view on the quality of care is an important tool for quality management.1

+ References

  1. Pichert JW, Miller CS, Hollo AH et al. What health professionals can do to identify and resolve patient dissatisfaction. Jt Comm J Qual Improv 1998;24(6):303-312.
  2. Australian Council for Quality and Safety in Healthcare. Complaints management handbook for health care services. 2005. Available at: Accessed November 19, 2015.




November, 2015


Canadian Association of Medical Radiation Technologists
85 Albert St, Suite 1000, Ottawa, ON, K1P 6A4
phone: 613 234-0012 / 800 463-9729
fax: 613 234-1097