6 Events That SHOULD Happen When Nurses Make Mistakes

I can remember the last time I made a mistake at work. One of a nurse’s greatest fears is that they might one day inadvertently hurt a patient. For a split second, panic took over me. In an instant, every bad possibility flashed through my mind, taunting me of what could come. Thankfully, it only lasted for a split second. I did not hesitate to notify the physician, the charge nurse, and then I “told” on myself through a hospital-wide reporting system. Because that’s what nurses do when they make a mistake, they hold themselves accountable. They know that the only way things will get better is if the near-miss or error is reported, allowing everyone to review work flows and related issues.

When a mistake is made:

1. You make a decision. Make the right one. Thinking back on every single mistake or error I’ve ever made in my career, I can always think of ways I could have covered it up. After all, we’re nurses! We know what counteracts what if it happens to be a med error. But we know we can’t do that. Our ultimate goal is for improved outcomes, and without knowing where the issues are, we are unable to advance our practice and processes. And of course, we have to make sure that no one was hurt in the process. But every time you hear in the news that a nurse or provider confessed quickly to a mistake, they should be supported—-because they could have made the wrong decision.

2. Notify the appropriate people. When you make any type of mistake, you should immediately notify the charge nurse, who will ensure that every base has been covered, and the physician or midwife, who will also need to know as the patient’s provider. Last, but not least, you should then file the event on the hospital-wide reporting system.

3. Don’t be embarrassed. This can be hard, but remember that we’re all human and we’ve all made mistakes. Sometimes we’re harder on ourselves than anyone else could ever me. We have to cut ourselves some slack! If anyone sticks their nose up at your error, remember that they’ve made their own in their career. And if they say they haven’t, then refer to #1 and just know they didn’t make the right decision…

4. Tell everyone you know. Someone once told me if I ever make a mistake, I should tell everyone I know so that people would be able to talk about it behind my back. And I liked that! I’m a total self-confessor, and I’ve learned that people are more likely to reveal their own past mistakes to make you feel better. We are nurses after all, we’re constantly trying to make people feel better. And it reassuring to know that every nurse has had some level of “whoops” in their career.

5. Forgive yourself. Depending on if your mistake reached the patient, you may have a hard time with this one. But you have to get over it and move on. The end.

6. Learn from your mistakes. One of the most important things about being involved in a mistake or an error is that you learn from it. Learn everything you can so that you never make the same mistake twice. Think of personal action items that you can control to keep the mistake from happening again.


Until my next delivery <3

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