Table 2

Doctors' perceived most stressful aspects of the complaint: themes

Main themesN doctorsExample quote
1. Procedural issues60“It seemed as if the patient is presumed to be right, and the doctor is presumed to be wrong, unless you can prove otherwise.”
2. Fear of the consequences of the complaint20“I was catastrophizing about what ‘may’ happen (however unlikely).”
3. Impairment of doctors' self-image and confidence14“We do take it very personally if someone calls into question our professional competence. It leaves you very shaken and lacking in confidence.”
4. Feeling intimidated or embarrassed by having to justify the complaint to seniors13“Most stressful to me was the pressure from managers as above or explaining to senior colleagues the background to a personal complaint.”
5. Awareness that a complaint was justified9“Feeling that the complaint was completely right and our way of working needed scrutiny.”
6. Feeling that a complaint was unfair8“Being accused of serious misdemeanors when nothing like that took place.”
7. Dealing with the complainant5“Most stressful to me was dealing with the relatives who seemed hell bent on going for compensation.”