Although it was not a "mistake" so much as a cultural conflict/misunderstanding, the orientation goof I always recall most vividly happened after I relocated to a small town in Appalachia to work in inpatient psych. All the other nursing staff on the unit were local people, and I was considered quite a colorful oddity (having come from a place they considered a "big city") but I was working hard to try to fit in and get along with everyone. One day early on, I asked the two techs working with me that shift to do something, I forget what, but something that was clearly within their job description and appropriate and ordinary for them to do. They both looked me right in the eye, smiled brightly, and said, "I don't care to."
Where I came from, growing up around "nice" ladies from "nice" families (and everywhere else I'd lived since then), "I don't care to" was the polite, ladylike way of saying "no." I was completely flabbergasted. I remember clearly standing there, frantically thinking, "OMG! I asked them to do something perfectly reasonable and they both flatly refused! Rank insubordination!! I don't remember this being discussed in my management class
-- what exactly do I do now??????" I got all huffy, drew myself up to my full 6', and said, "Well, alright then, I'll do it myself
!" and stomped off and did whatever it was. I spent the rest of the morning wondering what kind of crazy situation I had gotten myself into, were the techs this rude and insubordinate with the other RNs or was it just me (because I was new and from somewhere else), wondering what I had done wrong in the first place and what I should have done differently, etc., etc., etc.
It was only much later that day (or maybe the following day) that I found out that, at least in this particular area
of Appalachia, "I don't care to" means "yes" (the equivalent of "sure, I don't mind" where I came from) -- and they
had spent the rest of the day wondering why I'd reacted so strangely to their saying that yes, they'd do what I had asked, and how crazy, exactly, was
this new nurse from "off."
I did survive and even learned, over time, to fit in. I came to love the area so much that I still live here >25 years later (and have become familiar with all the local idioms
). But I still always remember that moment, and the blind panic I felt when they both said brightly, "I don't care (pronounced "keer") to", whenever anyone talks about embarassing moments in orientation (or
"cultural competency in nursing"