The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing. ~John Powell
I can still remember what one of my instructors in nursing school told our class. She had been a nurse for 40+ years. She said prepare yourself now because you will make errors. You are human. I remember thinking to myself, "Not on my watch. I am going to be extra careful." I was so naive.
While still a new nurse I made an error that I still think about today. I had a patient who had a history of a motor vehicle accident who was scheduled to have extensive back surgery due to chronic pain. She had been waiting months to get scheduled and finally be pain free. The surgeon who was to do her surgery was the best in the country at doing this type of procedure.
Her orders for the night before were NPO(nothing by mouth ). However, she had a feeding tube. There were no written orders to turn off the tube feeding but it was my job to recognize that and notify the doctor. I somehow overlooked this very important factor.
The patient who had waited months to have this surgery would have to wait even longer because her nurse made a mistake. There was no way she could have surgery with a stomach full of tube feeding. She could aspirate it into her lungs. She was very tearful and rightfully very upset with me. The surgeon was extremely pissed. I got my butt chewed out. The worse part was having to explain to the patient's family(who had driven in from hours away) that her surgery would be delayed and why.
Although it wasn't a life and death situation it was still a mistake.
Just recently a friend of mine called and was livid because her husband was in the hospital and the nurse gave her husband an overdose of heparin, a blood thinner. Her husband had been on a heparin drip for preventative reasons because his heart was in an irregular rhythm called atrial fibrillation. The nurse had given him 3 times the ordered dose.
He ended up being ok but nonetheless a scary ordeal for her and her husband. The nurse who gave him the heparin of course felt terrible and was shaken up.
A medication error can certainly haunt you, cause anxiety, and make you question your professional ability.
When we make an error in nursing it can be terrifying. We are dealing with people's lives. We certainly don't intend for mistakes to happen but many times factors like fatigue or being distracted by something else can contribute.
For this reason, many hospitals are implementing medication scanners and other safety checks to cut down on med errors. It doesn't prevent all med errors but it certainly does help reduce them.
Must of us chose the nursing profession because we want to help people. When errors or harm occur we are haunted with every detail of that mistake for years.
Nonetheless, I do believe that a nurse who has made a mistake might be safer than one who hasn't. Mistakes force you to be more cautious and diligent.
We are not perfect. We are going to make mistakes. But when they do happen we need to own up to them and learn from them so that they are not made again.
I would love to hear your feedback! I look forward to your comments below or over on my facebook page.
Tasha Nelson is a registered nurse who works the night shift at a large midwest hospital. She is also a skin care and wellness enthusiast who firmly believes in the importance of taking care of yourself. Nurses spend the majority of their time serving others but often put themselves on the "back burner". It is possible to be a night shift nurse and feel good and look great!