The one mistake every nurse shouldn’t make
So I know when you read the title all you could think about was ‘what is it??!’ Anyone who is a nurse or on their way to being a nurse can use this piece of advice!
We live in the world of life and death. I don’t think anyone will argue with me on that. We can have many levels of definition when we are asked what a ‘bad day’ really is. In the end, we shoulder a lot of responsibility caring for our patients, and we sure don’t want to make ‘that one mistake’.We’ve all made mistakes. I know I have. Some small, some great, some breath-taking, and some are quite comical. At the end of the day we are all human right? Aren’t we entitle to tripping up once in a while?
I think it has a lot to do with HOW we learned of our mistake sometimes that can determine how that mistake impacts us. In nursing school I remember a patient of mine having an IV site issue. The nurse caring for him did some adjustments to his IV site. While addressing the IV, she raised the bed up high enough to be close to waist-height (more than likely to lessen the strain on her back while troubleshooting). That particular day it was my big day to hang my first IV. I got to prime the tubing, lock it into the IV pump and then attach it to the patient (I think we all remember that first time). I was nervous as all get out. I had followed the steps prior to entering the room. I rehearsed them in my head before I approached the IV pump. I check and triple checked the tubing. Reviewed the 7 rights, etc., etc.
I successfully hung the med and had it infusing properly with no alarms and no messes! When I was getting read to leave the patients bedside, my nursing instructor asked if I forgot anything? Silently in my head I panicked and retraced all my steps four more times. Check, check, re-check.
I paused before answering no, that everything was fine.
The nursing instructor asked me a second time. I re-traced my steps, 4 more checks over my work. I replied again with an ‘Aye-oh-OK’ response.
This dialogue happened two more times before the patient finally looked over at me and kindly (and jokingly) said, “She’s obviously trying to tell ya something”.
I still for the life of me couldn’t figure it out??
My instructor kindly replies, “Well, good job on the IV, but if Mr. Smith wants to get out of bed to use the restroom or anything else he’s going to have to jump (and maybe fall).”
I looked at the bed – and it was still at waist-height! I got so involved in my task that I forgot that the nurse had raised his bed for that IV site troubleshoot!
I was mortified. I had missed something so basic, so simple, yet SO very important. To this day I tell that story to any and all that will listen. I have never left my patient’s bed at an unsafe height. Every time I leave my patient’s room I always, always, always lower the bed to its lowest setting. The way I learned that lesson has remained engrained in my brain.
I’ve made many more mistakes since then. Some even more comical, and some down right scary. I once entered in the wrong infusion settings for a narcotic medication for a patient. I transposed concentration and total amount of drug settings on the IV pump. Lets just say, thankfully the patient was intubated and the mistake was found quickly.
So back to my original statement : What is the one mistake every nurse shouldn’t make??
The mistake that they do not learn from.
Learning from your mistakes is the single most important process of growing and maturing as a practitioner. Not learning from a mistake will set you up to make that same mistake again.
Be sure to learn from all your mistakes, no matter how great or small, your patients will thank you for it.
Sean Dent is a second-degree nurse who has worked in telemetry, orthopedics, surgical services, oncology and at times as a travel nurse. He is a CCRN certified critical care nurse where he's worked in cardiac, surgical as well as trauma intensive care nursing.
After five years practicing as an RN, Sean pursued and attained his Masters of Science in Nursing. Sean currently practices as a Board Certified Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP-BC) in a Shock Trauma urban teaching hospital.
He has been in healthcare for almost 20 years. He originally received a bachelor's degree in Exercise and Sport Science where he worked as a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC).
By Sean Dent