The toll of medical errors

In an article this week titled “Nurse’s suicide highlights twin tragedies in medical errors”,’s health writer, JoNel Aleccia covers the story about Seattle nurse, Kimberly Hiatt who committed suicide in April after administering the wrong dosage to an infant patient. The patient who was admitted to Seattle Childrens Hospital for heart complications, died after the medical error occurred. It’s unknown whether the erroneous dosage was the fatal cause of death.
According to the article, Seattle Childrens Hospital operates under a “Just Culture” model and hospital reps state that it’s not within their policy to terminate staff for committing simple human errors. Many details concerning Hiatt’s case are unknown, but it is known that she was fired within weeks of her medical error.

The immeasurable burden of medical errors is one that’s felt by the medical community as a whole every day. To err is human. However, once a mistake – minor or fatal – is committed, a nurse’s confidence and emotional well-being can be deeply shaken. So where can nurses turn when they’ve committed the inevitable and are in dire need of support and tools to cope? Have you felt the need for this type of support or seen a colleague struggle with being a ‘second victim’ of a medical error?


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