Every nursing student and nurse stresses about making a mistake at some point during their career. No one wants or likes to make a mistake, but we are human and very prone to making errors. When you make a nursing mistake (whether it is big or small) you will deal with feelings of fear, depression, and extreme worry, which will lead you to question if nursing is really for you. I’ve been there!
In this article, I want to give you 6 tips on how to deal with making a nursing mistake. May be you are a new nurse and you just made your first mistake at work and you feel horrible, OR you’re a nursing student who made a mistake in clinicals and feel like dropping out of nursing school? Regardless, if this is you or not, hopefully these tips can give you comfort and let you know it is going to be okay.
6 Tips for Dealing with Nursing Mistakes
1. Understand that mistakes are going to happen! At some point during your nursing career, you will make a mistake. It is inevitable! It may be a very small mistake or a big one, but regardless it is going to happen. So, prepare yourself for it because it happens to every nurse.
2. Always recognize and address the mistake! When you make a mistake, don’t try to hide it or shift blame onto someone else. It is hard to admit fault but you must admit it. After making a mistake, follow the proper protocols to report it. Then move on and remember you’re not a failure!
3. Be proactive about your mistake! Use your mistake to teach other nurses so they don’t make the same mistake you did. This could potentially help save lives. I remember a nurse, who was a labor and delivery nurse, that gave an incorrect medication to a laboring mother that almost killed the mother. The reason for the mistake was that the medication the nurse was trying to give the patient was the same color vial as another drug. The nurse was devastated by her mistake and didn’t want others to make the same mistake as she did. So, she started teaching other nurses (holding classes) and actually got the drug company to change the color of the vial’s label to prevent it from happening again. So, this nurse didn’t let her mistake defeat her. She took action so others wouldn’t make the same mistake.
4. Remember some mistakes have positive outcomes! A mistake is a mistake, but sometimes they can have a positive outcome. For instance, I remember an x-ray tech who misread an order to x-ray a patient’s arm. They thought the order said to x-ray the patient’s chest. Therefore, the x-ray tech x-rayed the patient’s chest. However, come to find out the patient had a small tumor in the lungs that was a rare cancerous tumor. It was an aggressive form of cancer that wouldn’t have showed signs and symptoms until it progressed to the latest stage. Luckily, the tumor was caught early (because of a mistake) and the patient got treatment.
5. Don’t bottle up your feelings! After making a mistake, you are going to go on an emotional roller-coaster ride. You are going to feel fearful, depressed, and inadequate. Don’t keep these feelings inside because it will affect your work as a nurse. You must talk to another nurse about it, specifically a nurse you respect. When I’ve made mistakes, I find talking to another colleague really helps because you learn that everyone else makes mistakes…it allows you to feel normal.
6. Remember mistakes help you grow! The things I remember most in life are my blunders. When you make your first mistake as a nurse, you will remember it forever. I know I do! My nursing mistakes have helped me grow and mature into a better nurse. I feel a nurse can’t grow professionally without the bumps along the way. Mistakes are a necessary part of becoming a better nurse! So, when you make them, learn from them and move on.
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