Quote from CalicoBay
I left a post cardiac cath bandage on the patients arm too long and her arm became edematous. I'm so upset and feel so guilty!!! I was trying to be cautious and not remove it too soon. The patient didnt complain of pain, but im worried something bad will happen and then i will get a call from my boss or coworkers. How bad is this for a mistake?? I feel just awful!!
It's good that you feel awful. I'd worry about someone who didn't feel awful about making a mistake that caused or potentially could cause harm to a patient. That said, everyone makes mistakes. Everyone. The difference between a good nurse and a bad one is what they do AFTER the mistake.
First, recognize that you made a mistake -- do not try to deny it, even to yourself. Down that road no good comes.
Second, admit that you've made a mistake -- to your instructor or preceptor, to the provider, to any ancillary services that have a stake in this. Made a drug error -- contact the pharmacist and find out if there are any antidotes or treatments, if you should hold the next dose or give an extra dose, etc.
Immediately set about mitigating the harm or possible harm to the patient. That may mean getting an order for and giving Narcan (for an opioid overdose) or sugar (for an insulin overdose), etc. It may mean monitoring more closely, getting tests such as a bronchoscopy (for intubated patient who was given chewing gum) or X-rays (after a fall), etc. Whatever it takes.
Inform your manager -- and you want to be the first person to inform her. Call her, text her, email her or walk into her office and inform her face to face, but tell her and tell her first. You want to make sure she knows how sorry you are, how you're worried about the patient, that you realize the possible harm to the patient and are horrified, and how you think the error happened and what you will do to ensure you never make that kind of a mistake again. Take full responsibility for the error, even if you own only a small portion of it. (For example, I made a HUGE error that had a profoundly negative outcome for the patient. I made is due to a miscommunication that was passed down through SIX layers of report. If any one of the six people before me had passed on the correct information, I would have had the information necessary NOT to make the mistake. But they didn't, and *I* made the mistake. I took full responsibility and accountability. It was my mistake.) You don't want anyone -- your boss, your charge, the providers or your colleagues -- to believe that you're defensive, justifying the unjustifiable or trying to avoid responsibility or accountability for the error.
Lastly -- and this is very important -- forgive yourself. This is probably the hardest part of the whole process, but if you don't forgive yourself you will be so anxious about making mistakes that you will continue to make them. Mistakes are inevitable; everyone makes them. There are no perfect people. So treat yourself well and forgive yourself. Journaling helps, exercise, sometimes praying about it. Forgive yourself and treat yourself well. If you've gone through the steps above, you're a good nurse.
I hope this helps.