Customer Service with a Smile…Patients Complaints Getting You Down?

Last night I was at dinner with a friend and as we were chatting, we were acutely aware of two females at the table next to us. At some point it was noticeable to everyone in our vicinity the ladies were not happy. Both were signaling the waitstaff, complaining about things, and just being difficult. I honestly expected them to start snapping their fingers at the waitress for attention.  We had the same waitress and it was obvious she was new, so allowing some grace would have been the kind thing to do.  It wasn’t long before Karen Squared asked to speak to a manager to complain, excessively!


I get it, the last 16 months have been the worst!  The pandemic has created the worst case of cabin fever that anyone could ever imagine.  People are tired, snappy, grumpy by nature, and some can never really be pleased. Insert but here…but this does not give anyone the right to behavior poorly towards others.


If you are a healthcare professional reading this, you are very likely nodding your head in agreement and I would bet you are tired. Not just physically tired, but emotionally tired from the constant barrage of your patients’ bad attitudes. When I decided to start research for this blog, I went straight to social media to get the scoop directly from the source. Social media provides an outlet to vent in a safe space, assuming you follow HIPAA privacy rules.  Just to give you a taste of what’s going on…


  • D. says “I had a man complain about me because I wasn’t “clear enough” in my description about how to put on the hospital gown. He put his legs in the arm holes and tied the bottom around his waist.”
  • S. says “I asked a patient if she took a diuretic, because she had to get up to pee SEVEN TIMES, during a MRI of the orbits! She called to complain to by boss.”
  • L. says “Patient complained because I “refused” to turn down the noise that the MRI machine made while I was scanning her.”
  • Z. says “Patient called my boss because I didn’t find their made-up disease so they called my rad dept and eventually my phone to say I clearly didn’t know what I was doing, she wanted a repeat exam and a refund.
  • H. says “Had a patient complained he could smell the radiation”
  • A. says” I had a patient complain to my supervisor because she felt the needle go into her vein when I started her IV for a CTA.
  • P. says “Performed a CXR on a patient. Patient was sent back for a CT Chest to follow up on something seen. Patient asked why. I explained that sometimes they do a CT to take a closer look. Well within my scope to inform/educate. After patient left, they got worried. Patients’ daughter called and complained and had me written up. Boss tossed it.”
  • M. says “A patient was very upset because I refused to do a CT exam on him… said the hospital was a joke and that he’d never get medical care here again. He exceeded the weight limit of the CT table by almost 100 lbs.”


There are many myths and misconceptions about patient responses to the satisfaction surveys and the American Medical Association Journal of Ethics lists several. Among those mentioned are that patients respond to health care surveys at much higher rate that non-health related services. Patients who fill out the surveys are generally not unhappy with their care. Patient comments are the best part of the surveys and help to pinpoint methods to improve operations.


Maybe the patient does not understand the technical part of their care, but their perception of the quality of care versus the customer service they received is not easy to determine based on a patient satisfaction survey response.


I am certainly not saying that we shouldn’t be held accountable for providing a comfortable, safe, and quality healthcare experience. However, is it our job to smile and nod at the most ridiculous request or hateful behaviors? Even though this is a valid question, there’s typically not going to be an answer that will satisfy everyone because patient satisfaction surveys are here to stay.


I’m curious to hear from you about how your facility addresses positive and negative patient satisfaction surveys. Comment below or email me at


And don’t forget, it’s all about patient centered care!



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