Common Nursing Mistakes and How to Handle Them

Recovering from a Nursing Mistake - BlogThe idea of making a mistake as a nurse can be daunting. You are dealing with peoples’ lives on a daily basis, which can make it seem like mistakes are unacceptable.

But, it’s important to remember that we are all humans, and humans make mistakes. To combat this honest truth, we’ve compiled some common nursing mistakes and suggestions on how to address them.

Giving incorrect medications.

Messing up or mixing up patient medications can be easy when you have a lot on your plate and you are trying to multitask.

Ashley from Ashley Adkins, RN discusses a mistake she once made with her patient’s medication. When mixing her patient’s antibiotics, she forgot to re-add the antibiotics and ended up giving her patient pure saline, sans antibiotics.

“The first thing I [did was] let my charge nurse know,” Ashley said of her mistake. She was able to resolve the problem by talking with the pharmacy, her charge nurse and her patient. “These are the types of mistakes where you put a little note in your head and be extra cautious and careful the next time you do it.”1

Nurse Journal says, “for new nurses, the most common cause of errors with medication is a lack of ‘presence of mind’, as well as nerves and pressure.” They suggest the best away to avoid these types of mistakes is to leave your personal life at the hospital door so you can focus entirely on your patient.2

Asking for help without the correct information ready.

While this may not always be a life-threatening mistake, it is one that can affect your career if made too often. It’s important to have information prepared before asking for assistance so that the rest of the medical team can work effectively and efficiently.

Nurse Journal reminds us “you need to be primed with the information so that you can get assistance quickly and effectively, otherwise you risk making yourself look like an amateur in front of other nurses, doctors, and your patient.”2

While this isn’t a mistake you can necessarily “fix” once it is made, it is definitely one you can learn from. Before calling for help, make a mental note to look over the patient’s chart, and make sure you have a grasp on the situation so you can provide the correct information.

Making errors with documentation.

According to Sanford-Brown, in the medical field if something isn’t written down, it never happened. “Clear and complete documentation takes practice and time before it becomes automatic, so a new nurse is especially susceptible to these mistakes.”3

If you forgot to chart something important, make sure to tell your charge nurse immediately and fill in the chart with things that you missed.

“Keep in mind, if a patient sustains an injury, it could be determined that there was neglect based on a lack of documentation,” Nursing Made Incredibly Easy prompts us.4

Remember, a lot of these mistakes, and others, can be avoided by actively checking and double-checking the work you are doing. It’s important that you keep a clear mind and go into work each day focused and attentive.

The most important thing to remember as a nurse is that you should learn from your mistakes. How you react to your mistakes speaks loudly to the kind of nurse you are. “But in all seriousness, mistakes happen and it’s how we think about and digest and react to those mistakes that is important,” Ashley reminds us.1

How have you dealt with mistakes you’ve made as a nurse? Tell us in the comments below!