What To Do About A False Accusation By A Patient?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about complain by patient:

I work at a hospital. A patient supposedly made a complaint that I looked frustrated. Above all, the same patient in the same complaint said that I was ALWAYS late with her meds and inconsistent. When I pulled the medical records, I had given EVERY med CONSISTENTLY on time.When I tried to defend myself to my supervisor, she said I was trying to make excuses. I received a written corrective action due to the false accusation. I also applied for another job within the system but was denied due to the false accusation and written action. I have spoken to the head of HR who says this false accusation cannot be removed from my file even if I have legal documentation, because it is a patient complaint. Is this defamation? Slander?Libel?

Signed, Not Guilty

Dear Not Guilty:

We are not an HR site but I think I can answer your main questions. I’m sorry about this incident and can imagine your frustration if you feel you did nothing wrong. However, a customer complaint is not libel, slander or defamation of character. It is merely a complaint to be investigated. Even if you have documentation about providing meds on time, that still would not clear up the complaint about you looking frustrated. Since you received a write-up about it, it sounds as though your boss believed the complaint.

Perhaps others had commented on the same thing or she had observed something in your expression or tone of voice. (Maybe not, I’m just guessing that since usually a complaint isn’t sustained unless there is SOMETHING that backs it up.)Your HR person was correct that the complaint will likely to kept in your folder, at least for awhile. Some action was taken on it and the complaint provides documentation. You may be able to find out if there are time-frames for purging such complaints, so you will know when it will be removed. You may find your best response is simply to show through your actions that whatever the patient thought, you are not like that. In fact, you are concerned and considerate, optimistic and hopeful, as well as highly professional. You may already be doing that, but it never hurts to do even more. One thing is for sure, acting angry about it will reinforce the complaint. So, even though you are probably hurt, angry and feeling let down by your boss, I hope you will work to present yourself as someone who only wants what is best for the organization, other staff members and patients. If you are doing that already, you will be able to overcome this complaint.You will benefit by keeping communication active between you and manager, rather than letting this build a wall. Consider talking to her about your frustration and why it bothers you that a patient made up an accusation that was believed. You may find out more about it that way.If there is a chance you looked frustrated and it was noticeable to the patient, talk to your manager about it. Maybe you can find solutions to the things that frustrate you. Maybe you can point out the hundreds of patients who have never mentioned such a thing. Or, if you have received commendations you can emphasize those.Best wishes to you as you work through this difficult time. If you can do so effectively, you will strengthen your reputation and influence. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.