Thursday, August 10, 2006


More on students... this is one page of advice I give my pre-registration 'preceptees' (hate that word!)

Shit Happens

One of the things you're going to discover as you begin your career is that nursing and medicine are imperfect. Some days I wonder that anyone leaves the hospital at all! Human error is part and parcel of what we do, which is why we have so many checks and balances in place.

Mistakes have a role to play, believe it or not. Making little mistakes occasionally can teach you to avoid making the big, life-threatening, catastrophic mistakes. That sick feeling you get when you realise what's happened; you do remember that, and it teaches you caution.

No-one expects a new graduate nurse, certainly not a pre-reg nurse, to be perfect. Or rather, those that do are kidding themselves. What they do have a right to expect is that you adjust your behaviour so that you don't make the same mistake twice, because this is the difference between a smart nurse improving their practice, and a negligent nurse who will eventually become a liability.

So in other words, learn from your mistakes but don't dwell on them.

There are things you can do to limit the possibility of making one in the first place. One in particular is a thing called 'mindfulness'. It's about being aware of exactly what you're doing and why you're doing it. Watching, listening to and making contact with your patient. Being more than usually alert to changes and details.

Staying in this state all day might be a bit exhausting! However, if you can teach yourself to assume this attitude before giving drugs, before doing procedures, and when you first receive a patient on admission, you will go a long way towards reducing the number of errors you make. (You will never entirely eliminate errors.)

Finally, stop and think. Take a breath. Ask, "What am I missing here?" Then act.

Oh, and have some fun with it. People who enjoy themselves make fewer errors. Scientific fact!
Posted by PaedsRN at 5:38 PM

Anonymous sue, at 3:53 PM  

Well said ... sounds like a lecture I give my clinical students each semester ... you will make mistakes ... just learn from them, acknowledge them, fix whatever can be fixed ... and move one (and don't let it happen again on my watch)

Blogger Heeds, at 12:13 AM  

good advice!!

Blogger Sid Schwab, at 3:47 PM  

Right. And the most important thing is to listen to the voice that tells you you're in over your head. It's when we don't know that we don't know that we get into trouble.

Blogger Birdy, at 12:09 PM  

Thanks for the advice :)

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