A 'Mistake"


I'm not sure if my perspective is semantics or cultural but I struggle with hearing criminal activity (DUI, DWI, theft, felony charges etc...) referred to as I made a "mistake". Often this is followed by, or responded to, with "everybody makes mistakes". But the reality is everybody doesn't have a criminal record. To me a crime is a choice (with any number of circumstances that made that choice make sense at the moment), but it is choice. To me when one does something knowingly and intentionally wrong (and I think everyone knows that DUI, DWI, theft, any crime is wrong ) it isn't a mistake. As I said maybe it is semantics but a mistake to me implies one did something wrong unintentionally. For example if I unknowingly put salt instead of sugar in my tea i would say I put salt in by mistake; however if I knowingly went and got the salt and intentionally put salt in my tea I wouldn't say I put salt in my mistake, to me that was an informed choice to put salt in. The same is true if one chooses to get behind the wheel after drinking or chooses to do something illegal - it is an informed choice. A choice that shows a lack of judgement or a lack of impulse control or a lack of insight but a choice none the less.

I guess I see so many posts on here where people can't get hired. I personally would hire someone with a long ago record of a non violent, one time charge if they took responsibility for it and could explain what they had put in place to avoid further lapses in judgment, impulse control etc. The minute I hear the word - mistake they go on my no hire pile. I need to hire someone who can take responsibility for their actions, and who has good judgment, good critical thinking skills, good impulse control etc...for safety and professional reasons. Someone who sees their criminal actions as an 'oops' or a 'mistake' isn't someone I would trust to have those qualities.

Where I live too DUI and DWI is a serious offense, it isn't something that is shrugged off, seen as no big deal, or something everybody does. Based on the posts here my impression is that in parts of the U.S a DUI or DWI is really no big deal to most people and only a major inconvenience because of the barriers to registration/employment. That is a very foreign attitude for me because culturally where I am it is taken very seriously and not acceptable in any way. Therefore again if anyone minimized their DUI and DWI to me and indicated frustration that the BON was taking it seriously the way some posts on here express - that would also be an automatic no hire for me.

So I guess my question is - is this semantics - does mistake for you mean something different than it does for me? And as to the everybody makes 'mistakes' comments - do you believe that everyone commits crimes and some people just don't get caught? Do you differentiate at all between an unintentional mistake and a crime?


182 Posts

Specializes in MedSurg, Clinic, ER. Has 7 years experience.

Very interesting and thought provoking post...

I would like to point out one thing, though.

mistake [mɪˈsteɪk]n1. an error or blunder in action, opinion, or judgment

2. a misconception or misunderstanding

The definition of the word mistake includes errors in judgment. While a repeat offender would have a much more difficult time proving the second and subsequent offense was a simple error in judgment, even then it is still a mistake by definition because it was a error in judgment.

I am not disagreeing with you, per se... just that I see how someone would consider a momentary lapse of common sense a mistake.

There are varying levels of severity in lapses of judgment.

My situation, for example... I was fortunate to have received leniency from the BON (by way of a declaratory order prior to the beginning of my program) for what amounts to complete and total youthful stupidity with a checking account. In my case, I was ignorant of how a lack of responsibility and attention to detail would affect my life 20 years later. Yes, I assume full responsibility... however, that doesn't make it less of an error in judgment. And I can guarantee you that my checking account has been on the level EVER SINCE I had my issue... LOL

Unfortunately (?), one consequence of this level of mistake (meaning criminal offense) means that employers have every right to scrutinize and reject applicants that have this sort of history.

I don't think it's fair to compare a bad choice in life with putting the wrong substance in a glass of tea, though...

At the time I had my particular issue... I had no intention of doing that to myself. I was just really inexperienced and made bad choices. Would I do it again? HECK NO... that was stupid... LOL

Conversely, I have two family members that will swear left and right that it was someone else's fault they had the legal issues they had. Doesn't make their lapses in judgment any less of a mistake... but I believe you should always take ownership of your bad choices and learn from them... Or you will be doomed to keep making the same stupid mistakes over and over again.


21 Posts

i think that if we all took a moment, looked in mirror and reflected upon who we have become today- we have all done things that are not nurse-like in our lives...

whether or not your definition of "mistake" is the same as mine, that's a matter of personal opinion. i do agree in the notion of taking responsibility and holding accountability for ones own actions, past or present.

people come from all walks of life. some are dealt a discouraging set of cards at a young age and make the best with the hand they are dealt. i find success to be the true indicator of rising above the odds. we all go through different stages in life. some have little to no mentorship/ guidance or stability and often turn to a cohort of peers with similar backgrounds- it could be drugs, theft, rebels or possibly scholarship. it is the individual that breaks the cycle changes their life, and goes on to become a productive member of society- now that's a success story.

i can't speak for everyone here, but anyone who decides to go through a formal nursing education, makes the sacrifices and dedicates their life to a service that put others before themselves... i find this as something truly admirable and respectable on many levels.

people make choices, some good and some bad. yet, the common choice they have made is to better themselves and the community. if someone can recognize an action or a time in their life as being a "mistake", that signifies to me that they have the ability of knowing the difference between consequences, good and poor judgment, self reflection and the safety of society. all while doing something to make a change for the better.

i don't think anyone here views a dui as an inconvenience or an "opps". i want to believe they have taken accountability for their actions. no one likes to relive, have judgment passed or be indefinitely disqualified for poor past actions- in all facets of life. people recognize their "mistake" and want to go on to something meaningful and purposeful.

Ownership of a past "mistake" helps build character, humility, and compassion. These are all qualities a good nurse must have. Who you are today is what really matters.

llg, PhD, RN

13,469 Posts

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development. Has 46 years experience.

I am not bothered by the use of the word, "mistake" -- as long as the person takes responsibity for it and accepts the fact that some mistakes warrant some sort of punishment or penalty.

What bothers me are the people who think that merely admiting a mistake is sufficient -- and that there should be no punishment or penalty. They think it is unfair that they should have to suffer any sort of consequences for the bad choices. They say, "I shouldn't have to pay a price ... that's not fair ... I admitted my mistake ... I said I was sorry ... that should be enough." No, it's not always enough to say you are sorry. Sometimes, you have to accept the consequences of your actions with grace and dignity and then invest some time earning back the trust and respect of others.

... and yes, I am glad the Lindsay Lohan is finally spending a little time behind bars.