dcsimg
Home » Nursing Shortage

"Do No Harm": When Nurses Make Mistakes

Submitted by Admin on February 16, 2010, 8:02 am
A disturbed patient who commits suicide while nurses are within range of hearing. A healthy toddler who dies during a minor operation because of a medication overdose. An elderly man whose right hip was replaced instead of his left.

Horror stories like these make headlines. And sadly, while such stories may be sensationalized by the press, there's no smoke without fire. In 2008, nearly 90 serious medical errors occurred in Utah hospitals and surgical centers alone. This shows an increase of over 50% from the previous year, according to a Utah Department of Health report requested by The Salt Lake Tribune.

Why do mistakes happen? In no particular order, here are three of the main contributing factors to mistakes in nursing workplaces:

1. Lack of Sleep

According to studies cited by Reader's Digest, over 40% of medical workers say they’ve made fatigue-related errors. In one survey alone, just under 20% of medical workers report “worsening” a patient’s condition because of sleep-related fatigue.

2. Rushing or Over-Busy

In 2007, the ANA and Inviro Medical Devices developed and co-sponsored a study that explored the challenges related to labeling on syringes. The project, called the Study of Injectable Medication Errors, revealed that 78% of nurses believe the key factor related to injectable medication errors is "too rushed/busy environment."

3. Overworked and Understaffed

"The greatest common risk to patients is the understaffing of nurses," says Dr. Gary P. Brandeland, MD, Minnesota emergency room physician and author of "The Day Joy Died," an article published in a 2006 issue of Medical Economics. "A nurse may make a critical mistake, and a patient might die. She has to live with the error, but the real culprit, the root cause often is that she or he was understaffed and overworked and a mistake was made."

When considering the above reasons for nursing mistakes, keep two things in mind. Firstly, all the reasons are interconnected. Nine times out of ten if you're rushing you're also struggling with too much work and you're also fatigued.

Secondly, none of these common reasons for making a mistake are directly under your control. As a nurse who's part of a team, you can't always control the length of your shifts or the busyness of your environment. You can't call your workplace and say, "Sorry, but I've only gotten four hours of sleep in the past 24 hours, so I'd like to get some sleep even though there are critically ill patients who need me right now."

Until a gigantic transformation takes place in the nursing world, mistakes will continue to happen. It's inevitable.

Happily, most of the mistakes made by nurses are not as life-shattering as the one chronicled in Dr. Brandeland's article, in which a pregnant woman died as a result of a series of errors on the part of the nurse anesthetist. "Little mistakes happen all the time," writes a nurse blogger at Mediblogopathy. "Big mistakes, thank god, are much rarer and....tend to be the sort of thing you hear about but don't see."

Want to avoid the likelihood that you'll make a big mistake? Get a handle on the little mistakes first. Here are three ways not to react to a mistake, be it ever so small.

1. Play the Blame Game

"One younger nurse on my shift is known for making inconsequential mistakes," writes a nurse manager from Nevada. "I knew she was becoming a good nurse when I noticed she'd stopped blaming others for her mistakes or coming up with an excuse--how was I supposed to know the correct procedure, I thought Sam had documented that--and so on. She still makes mistakes occasionally but she is putting her energy into learning from her mistakes now instead of pointing the finger of blame."

2. Stage a Cover-up

Oops! The family wants to know why grandpa needs to stay in the hospital an extra day. You may be tempted to lie about the incorrect medication he was given. Don't. Not only is it unethical, but the stress you cause yourself and your co-workers by attempting to cover up a mistake will make you tense and brittle--and likely to commit a more serious faux pas.

3. Shoot the Messenger

"As the most experienced nurse in my unit I feel a lot of pressure to be a strong role model to the newer nurses," reports a critical care nurse with over 22 years of experience. "However I am not infallible and I certainly make my share of mistakes. If an LPN comes to me and says, you made a mistake in transcribing this dose, and I tear her head off, what is going to happen? Nurses are going to be less likely to report mistakes and bottom line is that patients will suffer. Always thank someone who points out a mistake, after all that person just helped you and helped the patient."

What Mistake You Made Taught You The Most?

"Do no harm" is a good intention to hold. But the reality is that as an overworked nurse, you will do harm somewhere along the way. All you can do is rely on your fellow nurses for checks and balances, learn from your mistakes, and share your stories.

What mistake during the course of your nursing career sticks out in your mind and taught you the most? Why not share it with other nurses and pass along the lesson you learned so you can help others benefit from your experience? Tell us your story.

Matching School Ads
Purdue University Global
Online

Building on Purdue's mission to provide greater access to affordable, world-class education, Purdue University Global delivers a fully personalized online experience that's tailored to working adults.

Programs:
Institute of Technology
Campus

You can get started on a new career with Institute of Technology.

For more information about our graduation rates, the median debt of students who completed the program, and other important information, please visit our website at www.iot.edu/disclosure

Programs: Campus Locations:
  • Modesto
  • Modesto
Hide Locations [-]
Unitek College
Campus

Unitek College – About Us

Unitek College™ is a privately held vocational school dedicated to helping you gain the skills needed to advance your career or begin a brand new career. 

Programs: Campus Locations:
  • South San Francisco
  • South San Francisco
Hide Locations [-]
Abilene Christian University
Online

Abilene Christian University is a national leader in Christian higher education and a place where students, faculty, staff and alumni make a real difference in the world.

Programs: Campus Locations:
  • Abilene
  • Abilene
Hide Locations [-]
UEI College
Campus

At UEI College, we want you to succeed. We’re like a family and we want you to be a part of it.

Programs: Campus Locations:
  • Ontario
  • Ontario
Hide Locations [-]
Chamberlain University
Online

Designed by RNs for RNs

Important information about the educational debt, earnings, and completion rates of students who attended Chamberlain University can be found at http://chamberlain.edu/ge

Programs:
California College San Diego
Campus

The Secret to Getting Ahead Is Getting Started

Congratulations! Your interest in California College San Diego® is an important first step toward changing your life. A career-focused degree is the key to a new career with a potentially higher income, better benefits, and more satisfaction.

Programs: Campus Locations:
  • National City
  • National City
Hide Locations [-]
Platt College
Campus

Turn Your Passion Into A Career with Platt!
 
At Platt College, we encourage our students to follow their passions, wherever they may lie, to find a career they love. You’ll find a supportive learning environment and career-focused training designed to help you gain the knowledge and hands-on training you need to succeed. 

Programs: Campus Locations:
  • Alhambra
  • Alhambra
Hide Locations [-]
Milan Institute
Campus

Prepare for an exciting new career at the Milan Institute.

Programs: Campus Locations:
  • Visalia
  • Visalia
Hide Locations [-]
Matching School Ads



About Us  |  FAQS  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy |  Sitemap |  Terms of Service
© 2006 - 2019 QuinStreet, Inc.