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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2 Responses to The toll of medical errors

  1. Granny RN

    First, you MUST report the error so that whatever correction that is necessary can be made quickly, especially if it is a medication or blood product. The first contact is the physician, second is your shift supervisor and/or manager.
    Remember that we have ALL made mistakes and as long as we stay in practice we will CONTINUE to make them. And NOBODY is immune-no matter how much experience, education, ‘position’, etc.
    The suicide of the Seattle nurse was profoundly tragic. No one should be allowed to be alone in a situation like that and her employer should have provided immediate counseling. I hope that was the case. But we all know that medical professionals are NOT bulletproof and it is time that nurses start to take the same care of ‘our own’ as we do our patients.

  2. Patricia Jankowski

    Thank you for bringing up this very important topic. I hope to see more comments. This is an issue that needs to be addressed in an intelligent and compassionate manner so that the true roots of medical errors can be discovered and corrected.