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A website for young nurses and the young at heart in Aotearoa

The Tea Room

We all make mistakes.... Right?

Posted by Lisa on November 26, 2014 at 4:20 AM

There has to be a first for every new nurse, the first medication error, the first fall on your watch, the first needle stick injury. 
Does the first mistake of your career almost mark a milestone in your graduate nursing evolution?
I questioned why I have suddenly started making mistakes 9 months after commencing the job, when in reality, I have made mistakes all along the way. Now the level of responsibility is rising, the new mistakes have more consequences than the old ones.

When we chose to become nurses, we chose to take on a tremendous level of responsibility, large workloads and multiple demands. This teamed with being new to the profession sets the scene for mishap.  In my case it was a port de-access, everything was laid out in front of me, the saline, the heparin, the dressing, a three step process, yet I de-accessed the port, completely neglecting to heparin lock. I knew it had to be done, I just didn’t do it. I was too busy chatting to my adolescent patient about Game of Thrones to be concentrating on the one thing I had to do.

The mental punishment I self-inflicted over the next few days was enough to be carcinogenic, I spent my nights reliving it in my head - the look on this needle phobic boys face when he heard me say I would have to reaccess the port…. It was enough to make me quit nursing, run away and change my name.  Fortunately we could remedy this mistake; I tried telling myself I was lucky for the fact; however it didn’t make me feel any better. At the time I was so afraid my colleagues would think less of me for it. Now I’m so convinced everyone make mistakes, I’m willing to share my shame.

It shouldn't have been a surprise to me, but I actually work in an error tolerant workplace, where incident reporting is used to squeeze all the information out of you so that others may avoid repeating your error. Similarly, around the same time it was observed that Lignocaine and Heparin plastic ampules (both housed on the CVAD trolley) look similar, an easy mistake to make with unfavourable consequences. The Clinical Educator who observed the potential issues has learnt to become wary from her own error history – thankfully incident reported, crisis averted, safe heparin for everyone!

So Mistakes can be a humbling experience, helping one to realise their practice will always evolve and reiterating the importance of reflection. We will make mistakes, the reason there are so many policies in place to manage risk is that nurses before us have too made mistakes….. we are human after all. It is only because you care that you punish yourself more than anybody else, realising your mistakes, learning from them and helping others to prevent repeating the same, is what makes a good nurse.


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