Sorry Works!

Sorry Works! Blog

Making Disclosure A Reality For Healthcare Organizations 

Question from the Road: Nurse Says Error

March 30, 2011Doug Wojcieszak, Founder & Spokesperson Contact phone/e-mail address: 618-559-8168;


Last week, Sorry Works! made two presentations in California, one in Los Angeles with the Hospital Association of Southern California, and the other in Napa, CA for a large med-mal insurer. Both great audiences, and some great questions from the audiences I want to share with you over the next few days.

Question from Los Angeles: "We go to meet with the family after an adverse event to empathize, promise an investigation, etc, but the family tells us right up front that a nurse has already told them an error happened which caused the injury to (or death of) their loved one. What do we do?"

This could be jousting or speculation by a nurse, or maybe the family didn't understand the situation entirely, or maybe the family could be making it up in an effort to blame someone for their unhappy uncome. Or maybe the nurse is right and the family heard it right: A mistake did occur. Regardless, you're not going to know on the spot. The best and safest thing to do is continue with the empathy, and as part of the investigation promise you will talk to that nurse in question to learn what she/he knows. This can be powerful for two reasons: 1) It shows you hear the family and validate their concerns enough to promise a talk with the nurse, but 2) you're not saying - yet - that agrees with anything the nurse might or might not have said.

So, don't panic, acknowledge the situation and then make the talk with the nurse part of the follow through and leadership you will be showing the family post-event.

Long-term, we need to do more training and awareness raising about disclosure with our front-line staff. Teach that empathy and great cusotmer service are appropriate 100% of the time post-event and must be done rapidly, but we want to PAUSE to let the investigation determine if a mistake occured, even if we think a mistake happened. Jousting and speculating help no one, including patients and families. If you have a hunch or thought about what happened, or even if you firmly believe a mistake killed the patient, share this information with the disclosure team. Help the investigation move forward.

For more information on Sorry Works!, including Sorry Works! presentations for your physicians and staff, please call 618-559- 8168 or e-mail


- Doug

Doug Wojcieszak, Founder Sorry Works! PO Box 531 Glen Carbon, IL 62034 618-559-8168 (direct dial) (direct e-mail)