How to Make Yourself Heard in the Hospital

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, a nonprofit organization that evaluates hospital care, recognizes the dangers of miscommunication in hospitals. "Sometimes caregivers don't realize that how they deliver a message can shape a patient's perception of the care they receive," says JCAHO media relations manager Charlene Hill.

Here are some steps JCAHO recommends for a patient who feels he or she is not being treated properly by a hospital staff member.

1. Address the staffer directly, explaining the problem. The staffer may be unaware of it.

2. Relay your complaint to the nursing supervisor.

3. Ask your primary care doctor to intercede for you in dealing with a brusque hospital caregiver or clarifying insufficient information from a specialist.

4. Enlist the help of a healthy friend or relative who can speak up and seek an explanation for a staffer's words or behavior.

5. Enlist the help of a supportive staffer.

6. Make your complaint known to the hospital's ombudsman. Most hospitals have one on staff.

7. If all else fails, register your complaint by contacting JCAHO at Or send e-mail to or a fax to 630-792-5636.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company