Communication for Patient Safety
Giving and receiving feedback

Giving and receiving feedback



There are ways to make it easier to say and hear difficult things.


It is important for people to be able to express opinions and make constructive comments.  There are a few ways of doing this that can keep things from getting ugly, that is to say personal or derailed in other ways.

  • constructive

  • positive

  • specific



  less effective

  more effective feedback




 "you don’t know what you are talking about"

Help the person to do a better job next time.  "Perhaps next time it would be helpful if you were able to read the documents we are discussing before coming to the meeting"


 "it was good"

 WHAT was good about it? "I really liked the way you gave everyone in the team an opportunity to speak once before people got to speak a second time. It gave me the encouragement I needed to speak"


 "you talk a lot"

Try to find the good in the behaviour.  "It is clear that you have a great deal of enthusiasm and knowledge that you would like to share with the team. Is there a way that you can write some of it down to circulate to the team before the next meeting and then others can talk about some of your ideas?"


If you tell someone how you feel or how their actions make you feel it is less judgmental, and easier to hear, than a pronouncement of how they are.

"When you cut me off it makes me feel like you don’t care what I have to say"



Telling someone how they could do something better rather than telling them what they are doing wrong is also easier to hear.

"It would improve patient safety and make my job a lot easier if you could print your orders, thank you"  rather than "your writing is terrible, I can’t read a thing you wrote"


Public Domain Photo courtesy


Sometimes it is necessary to say difficult things and it can be helpful to make a sandwich - find positive comments with which to sandwich the difficult comment.  It is easier to embrace constructive feedback if we can feel good about some aspects of our performance and work to improve it rather than feeling judged.

For example:


  • bread - I really appreciate the extra work you did to bring a variety of perspectives to our discussion today

  • meat - perhaps in the future we could put new topics on the agenda rather than getting off on a tangent

  • bread- it is clear that you are really interested and committed to this work



Ask your co-workers what it is that  you do well and ask for one area you could improve your work for the sake of patient safety.




Think of a difficult thing you need to say to someone at work -> this is the meat of your sandwich. Write a short, clear statement of what you would like to say.


Think of 2 good things you could say to this person about what they do well. This is the rest of the sandwich. Just like most of what the person does is probably pretty good, we want to focus on the good and point the way for the person to improve the small thing that they need feedback about.


How would it feel to hear this kind of feedback yourself?

How would it feel to give this sort of feedback to someone?

Challenge yourself to give specific, constructive feedback that is positive - feedback that you can feel good about, and encourage others to give you feedback on your work, for the sake of patient safety!



There is a lot to learn about working in teams, and communicating effectively. In this section we have to give you a sense that there is much that can be done to make team work fun and supportive.