A “Chief Complaint” is the reason the patient is at the doctor’s office in his or her own words. Triage personnel are trained to write down exactly what the patient states in order to avoid any “framing” by medical personel before a full medical evaluation takes place. Usually, Chief complaints are like the following:

My chest hurts
I can’t breath
My stomach hurts

Somtimes they are shortened a bit and lumped together by the triage nurse, or medic who brings the patient, like so:
Chest pain.
SOB (short of breath)
Abdominal Pain

Ideally, it is recorded in the patients actual words. Tonight, my favorite chief complaint was…

“Next thing I know I was on the floor.”