When Nurses Make Mistakes…..

Write down everything.  Write down every mediation, dosage, and time it is given.  Write down what tests are taken and the results.  Write down everything.

That was advice given to my sisters and I when our parents were hospitalized.  We heard this advice not from just one person, but several.  Truthfully, this advice frightened me.  Are our health care professionals so inept that if we don’t ‘stay on top’ of everything, serious mistakes will be made and our parents could die?   I suddenly felt like their safety was in my hands.  When combined with the trama of their illnesses, this added responsibility was overwhelming.

Yes, we started writing down everything.  I had my spiral notebook and made a valiant attempt to record it all.  The fact was, I couldn’t do it.  There were times when I was wrapped up in the activity or emotion of the moment, would just flat forget.

I finally decided to let it go…..  I let go of the worry about whether or not something would go wrong.  I let go of concern that the nurses might make a mistake with their medications.  I finally relaxed.

There are things I continued to do.  I continued to ask questions about medications, tests, vital signs, etc.  I stayed very involved and aware.  I just didn’t write down everything.

All that said, there were mistakes made.  Not many and nothing serious,  but mistakes none the less.  Sometimes I picked up on the mistakes.  Sometimes another nurse found it.  There were a few occasions of vital signs written down incorrectly.  I don’t remember any serious mistakes with medications.

What should be done when a mistake is made?  In my opinion, it depends on the type and severity of the error.  Because the mistakes I saw were not serious and did not affect the health or safety of my parents, I usually mentioned the error to the nurse involved, making sure that she was aware of it, and then took it no further.

However, if I had become aware of something that was caused by carelessness and inattention to detail, or if I had found out that incorrect medications or dosages were administered, then I would not have hesitated to talk to the nursing supervisor.

I believe that nurses do a wonderful job each and every day.  They are competent and compassionate, accepting the huge responsibility of  administering medications with professionalism and accuracy.

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