I get complaints

A couple of months ago I had a patient complaint. More specifically, I had a complaint from the mother of a 14 y/o who was my patient, who had fallen off his board and sustained an eyebrow lac and a brief loss of consciousness, but was completely awake and alert.

I remember this interaction well: the ED was a zoo, it was when we were still shorthanded on docs, so things were moving more slowly than normal. Mom was beside herself with anxious self-importance, coming to the nurses’ desk about every 3 minutes to ask ‘when something will be done for my son’. This is normal once, and maybe twice, but she did this about 6 times, each time assurred that things were happening (they were), etc. It should be noted that this teen, dressed in the adolescent rebellion uniform, was entirely calm and cooperative, and several times asked mom to please just sit down and let us work.

I sutured his lac, and his head CT was normal, and after being in the ED for a whopping 2.5 hours, they went home.

Two weeks later a complaint letter was forwarded to me for my comments. Mom had written that the wait her son had endured was plainly excessive, and that we “…should compensate him for his time, maybe by buying him a new skateboard”. Now, I work in a very ‘customer friendly’ place, but his was the most amazing complaint/request any of us had ever seen, and the review comments were uniformly ‘huh?’.

We sent him a get-well card.


  1. Be sure he pays his bill. A skateboard. Good grief. “Self-important” is being charitable.

  2. I didn’t realize 14 y/os are on hourly pay lol. Shame on you for taking time out of his day for an accident that he was resonsible for!

  3. Good grief!!

    If I wreck my car and come to your ED will you buy me a new one?


  4. medicmom says:

    “Anxious with self importance.” I like that phrase. I wonder what “damages” she would have claimed if they had to wait 4-6 hours (or longer) like most of the ED’s around here?

    Hmmmm….I need a new computer. I wonder what type of injury I conjure up? LOL

  5. graham charnock says:

    Come one guy you should have bought him a skateboard, whatever that is.

  6. You should have sent “mom” Burnquists website on how to teach your kids to safely ride a skateboard!

  7. Anonymous says:


    You should have arranged with the hospital to send the letter to the local newspaper (with identifying details removed).

  8. SuperMom says:

    The latest comment is CHOICE! “Self-important” is, of course, the key phrase. We’ve all met this woman, and she irks all around her. Your solution (the card) was priceless.

  9. Isn’t there some government program to buy skateboards for underprivileged youths? Or maybe she could just go to Sports Authority or Target and try paying only her co-pay for a new skateboard, insisting that it was a medical claim.

  10. IN the ER I see them ….. In my private clinic I toss em out (and then usually see them in the ER again).

  11. Tom, USN HM1st Class says:

    Maybe you should have gave him a full work up, made him not want to come back. When I was on active duty in the Navy; as a Hospital Corpsman, 1st Class; we had a man who would fall down and cause injury to get out of duty. He came into sickbay one after noon with a head injury, complaining of back pain. So we took him in immediatly, it was obvious that he cut his head with a razor blade. So we strapped him to a back board and did a head to toe, inside and out exam. We put in an NG Tube, Foley Cath, put a ringers IV in the right arm; NS IV in the left arm; did a sphincter tone exam, hemocult; and pretended to start a peritoneal lavage and he blurted out that he cut himself on purpose. ….. He wasn’t fit to be in this mans Navy! He said he wanted time off, oh yeah; he was off like a prom dress. In a Behaviorial Sciences Unit….