The 8 Most Common Nursing Mistakes — And 4 Tips For Bouncing Back After You Make One
We’ll walk you through what the eight most common nursing errors are, as well as some steps to consider taking after the fact.
Image via Unsplash.com/Goh Rhy Yan
We all strive for perfection, but nurses are humans and make mistakes from time to time. So, if you’ve ever made a mistake on the job, just know you’re not alone.
The 8 Most Common Nursing Mistakes
The most common nursing mistakes tend to fall into one of eight categories.
Mistake #1: Causing Preventable Infections
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in 25 U.S. hospital patients contracts at least one healthcare-associated infection on any given day. Nurses play a key role in increasing or decreasing their patients’ risk of this happening. For example, you could cause a preventable infection if you don’t clean your hands regularly during your shift or follow an aseptic technique to prevent the spread of harmful organisms.
Mistake #2: Documenting Things Incorrectly
If you don’t record all of your patients’ information (or if you record that information incorrectly), you could inadvertently prevent them from receiving the care they need. Types of documentation errors include not recording (or recording inaccurate details about):
- Patient histories
- Medications given or stopped
- Your actions
- Instructions for care going forward
Mistake #3: Making Medication Errors
Nursing errors can be made when nurses administer the wrong dose of a medication or inadvertently give a patient someone else’s prescription. These medication errors can delay a patient’s return to health, make them ill, or—in some cases—even lead to death.
Mistake #4: Not Following Risk Management Procedures
All healthcare workplaces typically have risk management procedures in place. These guidelines help you identify risks in your environment and minimize the chance of mishaps occurring. They also outline the steps to take when an incident occurs. If you don’t follow this protocol, you may be more likely to make nursing mistakes.
Mistake #5: Failing to Prevent Patient Falls
Falls can happen if you don’t regularly check in on your patients, fail to accompany those who need mobility assistance, or even forget to put items they need close by. Additionally, if you seem too busy or unapproachable, your patients may try to do too much in your absence.
Mistake #6: Struggling With Multitasking
As a nurse, you’re expected to handle multiple patients and tasks simultaneously. Failing to do so could end up with you inadvertently skipping some vital tasks, such as documenting when a patient took a medication so the rest of your team knows not to administer it. If you find yourself struggling with this, the easiest thing you can do is ask your colleagues or superiors for help. Have them share their tips for managing tricky workloads, or ask them for help in figuring out which tasks should be prioritized over others. If your workload proves to be too overwhelming, consider talking to your manager about shifting some things off your plate.
Mistake #7: Calling a Patient by the Wrong Name
This type of nursing error is more embarrassing than dangerous. Although it’s a particularly common one among new nurses, even the most seasoned professional can find herself blanking on a patient’s name from time to time. So, if it does happen, all you can do is apologize and keep going. The next time you find yourself at a loss for a patient’s name, consider sneaking a peek at their chart before you address them.
Mistake #8: Not Listening to Your Body
With long shifts and irregular schedules, nurses often become tired and stressed, which can increase their risk of making mistakes and even burning out. Burnout symptoms include: - Emotional exhaustion: Feeling drained, tired, low, and overwhelmed. - Alienation from work: Being cynical and disengaged from your work; feeling resentful and frustrated by your job and/or by your colleagues; and even finding it hard to empathize for your patients. - Reduced performance: Finding it hard to concentrate or follow through on tasks, making more errors, and feeling listless.
4 Steps to Consider Taking If You Make a Nursing Mistake
Some mistakes are more significant than others, but few are so large that you can’t find ways to fix them. Here are four constructive and proactive tips to consider when grappling with the nursing error you made.
1) Acknowledge your mistake and report it.
Don’t try to cover up your error or shift the blame from your shoulders. Instead, take accountability for your actions and make sure to follow any risk management protocols your facility has put in place to handle such incidents.
2) Be proactive about fixing the mistake.
If you make a mistake, try not to get discouraged and give up. Many mistakes are fixable, so check in with your supervisor or manager to see if there’s anything you can do to help out. When possible, try to be part of the solution to the problem.
3) Understand what led to the mistake.
There’s no doubt that your nursing mistake may have had dire effects, and it can feel unbearably difficult to focus on anything else. Once you’ve grappled with these feelings, you will want to find out what you could’ve done differently. No matter how drastic the effects of your mistake, use this opportunity to shift your focus toward improving your nursing skills and helping prevent your peers from making the same kind of mistake.
4) Don’t ignore how you’re feeling.
Never bury your feelings. No matter how slight or severe the mistake, give yourself permission to feel the anger and remorse that may follow. Journal about it. Discuss it with others. Remember: You are only human. Process your emotions in a healthy way so you can move on positively. And if you need professional help, get it.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Berxi™ or Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company. This article (subject to change without notice) is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute professional advice. Click here to read our full disclaimer
The product descriptions provided here are only brief summaries and may be changed without notice. The full coverage terms and details, including limitations and exclusions, are contained in the insurance policy. If you have questions about coverage available under our plans, please review the policy or contact us at 833-242-3794 or firstname.lastname@example.org. “20% savings” is based on industry pricing averages.
Berxi™ is a part of Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance (BHSI). Insurance products are distributed through Berkshire Hathaway Global Insurance Services, California License # 0K09397. BHSI is part of Berkshire Hathaway’s National Indemnity group of insurance companies, consisting of National Indemnity and its affiliates, which hold financial strength ratings of A++ from AM Best and AA+ from Standard & Poor’s. The rating scales can be found at www.ambest.com and www.standardandpoors.com, respectively.
No warranty, guarantee, or representation, either expressed or implied, is made as to the correctness, accuracy, completeness, adequacy, or sufficiency of any representation or information. Any opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice.
The information on this web site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and does not purport to establish a standard of care under any circumstances. All content, including text, graphics, images and information, contained on or available through this web site is for general information purposes only based upon the information available at the time of presentation, and does not constitute medical, legal, regulatory, compliance, financial, professional, or any other advice.
BHSI makes no representation and assumes no responsibility or liability for the accuracy of information contained on or available through this web site, and such information is subject to change without notice. You are encouraged to consider and confirm any information obtained from or through this web site with other sources, and review all information regarding any medical condition or treatment with your physician or medical care provider. NEVER DISREGARD PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE OR DELAY SEEKING MEDICAL TREATMENT BECAUSE OF SOMETHING THAT YOU HAVE READ ON OR ACCESSED THROUGH THIS WEB SITE.
BHSI is not a medical organization, and does not recommend, endorse or make any representation about the efficacy, appropriateness or suitability of any specific tests, products, procedures, treatments, services, opinions, health care providers or other information contained on or available through this web site. BHSI IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR, AND EXPRESSLY DISCLAIMS ALL LIABILITY FOR, ANY ADVICE, COURSE OF TREATMENT, DIAGNOSIS OR ANY OTHER SERVICES OR PRODUCTS THAT YOU OBTAIN AFTER REVIEWING THIS WEB SITE.