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Rookie Wit & Wisdom
Haunted by the “Undones”

Have you ever gone home after a shift and been haunted by what you may have forgotten: Did I remember all the meds? Did I chart it all? When I passed on my report did I remember everything? Did I assess everything correctly?

I often wake up—as if in a nightmare—cataloging what I may have forgotten. It has created an immense amount of anxiety. I’m plagued by the “what ifs”: What if that woman didn’t get her antibiotics, and the new nurse doesn’t know to give her another dose? Or, Maybe my assessment of Mr. Jones was wrong. What if it was, and he crashes? Or, Oh yeah, I forgot to tell Nurse so-and-so about Ms. Smith’s fluid restrictions.

Because of this anxiety, I fell into a period of depression and ended up having to seek help from a counselor. It was tough for me to admit that I needed help. It was even tougher to reach out for help, even if it’s just talking to someone. My family didn’t understand. They just said, “It’s a job. Come on, get over it.”

Through talk therapy, though, I learned I was expecting myself to be perfect—always. Now I realize, and I probably knew then, that I couldn’t be perfect.  No nurse can be perfect. No nurse can remember everything. They can just do the best they can.

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3 Responses to “Haunted by the “Undones””

  1. Mr Ian Says:

    Yup, yup, yup & yup. All of the above.

    I usually remember what I did or didn’t do; and feel pretty confident about whether I should call it thru or just let it go cos I can catch up tomorrow – which is usually based on whether a patient or my colleagues will suffer as a result. if it’s just a paperwork thing of little consequence, I let it ride but if it’s serious like someone didn’t get their insulin or i forgot to pass on some info, I will call it in.
    As you say, it’s a fact; it happens. People make mistakes – but a mistake is only a mistake if you do something about it. If you don’t, then it’s complacency.
    What also helps me is having confidence in my colleagues who follow my shift. Not just in their clinical ability but also in our culture; we help each other, we carry each other and when necessary, we chew each other out for our stupidity or lack of common sense. But it doesn’t matter too much in the long run.
    My sleepless nights usually evolve from thinking about what I’ve got to get thru tomorrow, not what I forgot today tho.

  2. Nurse Jewels Says:

    Kendra, never fear. Your confidence will grow as you continue to practice and work through things with a counsellor. Have you thought about meditation? Yoga? It can really channel your thoughts and anxieties in relaxing and rewarding workout. And it doesn’t require a whole lot of jumping around or cardio (good for when you are exhausted and not wanting to go to the gym for a workout or go running). Do you feel close to your colleagues? Is it a fun, challenging environment? Is there a helpful and accessible Nurse Educator on your unit? Hmmm, also I tried writing in a journal only for work so i could rant and rave and swear and curse. get it all out and shred it. just a few options to consider. I still get anxieties the night before the first day of my set. I try to curb my anxieties by falling to sleep to meditation exercises. wear earplugs. set 2 alarms. in the morning if i’m freakin out i do some meditation/breathing exercises and shake it off in the shower dancin to my fave music. may sound crazy, but it works for this nutty nurse. good luck.

  3. Paula Says:

    I have been a nurse for more than 25 years and I still have these dreams. Especially after a bad shift or one that was just really busy…..I don’t think you have anything to worry about. It is just your minds way of replaying things. I now laugh at them and get on with things….

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