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Rookie Wit & Wisdom
The Mistake I Can’t Forget

I have been an RN for almost two years now. I worked in a Special Care Unit till now, and I am training in the ER (my dream job). I have made mistakes since becoming a nurse and I always keep them with me. (I expect perfection from myself.)

Generally, though, when I make mistakes, I realize I have the best intentions and am able to forgive myself.

But there was one mistake I made in nursing school I can't get over. I was one of the few nursing students that had been a CNA before school, working at a nursing home for two years. During our first year, I had a post-op hip patient. We were responsible for oral meds and ADL's at this time. This patient needed to have a BM so I asked the new-grad nurse taking care of her how she had been using the bathroom. She handed me a bedpan (I didn't know what a fractured bedpan was).

I asked if I needed to help the patient, and she told me the patient had been helping turn herself. So I went in the room and the patient asked me if I should get some help. I had heard this comment a lot at the nursing home, and said my usual joke: "I'm short, but I'm stout."

I may have pre-planned for this patient, but I did not think about making sure there was a hip abductor between her legs. The patient rolled over with my help and did well, but had some discomfort. I thought this was normal, but after I put the bedpan under her and we rolled her back to her back, she was crying in pain. I ran to get the experienced nurse for help. She came immediately.

After we had the patient comfortable, the experienced nurse told me what I did wrong and what could have happened (how her new hip prosthesis could pop out). She asked me not to take care of that patient anymore. I agreed, but still went into the patient's room to own up to what I did.  She didn't say much.

I also told my instructor, who tried to make me feel better. But I couldn't stop crying. I just can't get over it because I always wonder if I was trying to impress someone. (Who knows - maybe I was trying to prove something to myself.) I was always told how good of a caretaker I was. I never considered how cautious I should be.

I know what I did was wrong-and I just can't stop thinking about the pain that woman was in. I still cry about it now.

It won't stop me from trying to be the best nurse I can, but GOD I wish I could take it back!

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4 Responses to “The Mistake I Can’t Forget”

  1. Nurse Kirsten Says:

    We all make mistakes but as long as you learn from them it will make you a better nurse. You did not do it intentionally to hurt her, you just had not been educated on that subject.

  2. Pat. U. Says:

    Well, we are human and human error is part of the deal. It is more beneficial to proceed cautiously in every thing we do and not be over assuming. Every one concerned in this unfortunate incident has forgiven you. You need to do the same. You owe yourself that much. That lady must have forgotten. All medical professionals make mistakes. That has given rise to malpractice dilemma. However, we all will continue to strive for perfection. That is why checks and balances in everything we do are very important. Please my dear, be encouraged. Always pray for wisdom and God’s guidance before you start your shift. It helps me stay focused and out of trouble. Good luck and happy new year.

  3. Nancy B Says:

    Please forgive yourself! Learn from the experience. You apologized sincerely. We ALL make mistakes and the only good thing that mistakes are for is to learn from them. Stop beating yourself up! I remember working with a new RN (I’m an LPN) some 20 years ago and she put a standard bed pan under a patient backwards! I helped her through that, made her laugh with me about it and she still remembers me when we see each other in passing (Ooh, there’s a pun there!)

  4. Michael FR Newbold Says:

    I am distressed by the focus of attention on forgiving mistakes as human error. If the patient was not properly attended, more focus should be directed on preventing a repetition. It looks like ASHLEY RN was not properly supervised and the mistake was more her supervisor’s than her own.
    Anyone care to excuse the lax supervision? It’s yet another example of a patient knowing more than the staff but being deferential and passive and suffering as a consequence. Caregiving shouldn’t be about best intentions and forgiveness of errors, it should be about crafting a fail-safe system that is self-sustaining.

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