absentmindedness a barrier to nursing career?


Been lurking for a little bit and first off want to thank you all for the insight I've gained here. What a nice resource for newbies like me!

I don't work currently and am thinking of applying to nursing school in a few years when my kids are older, but I am concerned that my absentmindedness might prevent me from being a good nurse. I often forget what I was going to say, or why I just walked into a certain room. I live by my to-do lists, and I always set a timer when cooking. My husband points out that as a nurse, there would be times when I would not be able to chart immediately. I'm very concerned that I might forget to chart or check something important!

School does not worry me, except for the clinicals part. I love school and retain information well.

Also, I will sometimes just say the wrong word, like "garage" instead of "driveway" or "towel" instead of "tile." Just like once every day or two, and usually I hear what I said and correct it, but sometimes I don't and have to figure it out by the other person's confused silence. I don't mix up numbers.

My question is whether these issues can be overcome through tricks and training, or whether they may represent a significant barrier to a career in nursing. Please be brutally honest! It'll be a couple years before I'm ready to plunge into a nursing program, but I'd like to start working on prerequisites soon, and I don't want to waste time and money on something that I am not suited for. (Better to jump right into accounting classes or something, I guess. Yuck.)

I know I am not a succinct writer. Many thanks for reading!

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

226 Articles; 27,608 Posts

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 17 years experience.

Welcome to allnurses.com!

I'm a forgetful person, too. However, I've been a nurse for a little more than 8 years, so I'm proof that there's room for those of us who are somewhat otherworldly.

I am not an auditory learner, so verbal directions go into one ear and out the other. To cope, I live by my to-do lists. I am fine as long as I write things down as I go. Otherwise, I'll forget.

However, you cannot jumble or confuse words in nursing since there are so many medications and procedures that sound alike.

Good luck to you!


7 Posts

Thank you for your quick reply, TheCommuter!

I have worked as a medical transcriptionist, so I know that sometimes physicians will make dictation errors. (Or at least, I knew my docs and strongly suspected an error. Of course it's part of a transcriptionist's job to flag any inconsistencies.) However, I assume they dictate charts in their down time, and so they are not really "on" if that makes sense -- which is quite different from saying the wrong thing in an emergency situation, or to the patient. I have never had a fast-paced, high-anxiety job, and I don't know if the extra adrenaline would make my brain work better -- maybe the neuronal connections just get lazy when I'm communicating casually. (How's that for some pseudo-anatomical nonsense?!) I suppose if I went around calling all drugs by both their generic and brand names for verification, my coworkers might want to punch me!

queserasera, RN

1 Article; 718 Posts

Has 5 years experience.

I've struggled with attention-deficit disorder and dyslexia since I was a kid, so I get things jumbled and mess up words all the time. I guess I can say I used to get things jumbled!

I have to mentally organize every one of my thoughts from most important to least important so that I can focus on the most important one and work my way down. I never thought in a million years I'd be able to be one of those people that was able to multi-task but through hard work and self-awareness I've really made huge improvements. I remember first starting college and not being able to take notes and listen to a professor at the same time, or being totally distracted by any sensory input. I was pretty sure I'd never be successful because of it.

I also avoided the traditional medications for ADD because as a kid, they just made me feel horrible.

I've been really lucky to realize that if I can just organize my brain and give my attention to the task at hand (full attention!) I am able to do things carefully and without error. Sometimes it just takes slowing down to break that absent-mindedness! I finished my pre-reqs with a high GPA and have made academic strides I'd never thought I would be able to. I owe a lot of it to just slowing myself down and really thinking about what it is I'm supposed to do next!

Also... read "Moonwalking with Einstein" by Josh Foer. It's an awesome book exploring average memory and it really helped me stop and think about how I remember things (even if it's just where the heck I put my keys!)


468 Posts

I am quite ditzy. I would probably have no problem getting diagnosed with ADD, but never bothered. It wears off eventually. I would say I'm pretty organized now. Get a good planner and study hard. We all make mistakes but this stuff does get to be second nature pretty quickly. When it comes to things like meds and charting, just know yourself and be sure to check and double check and triple check (which we are supposed to do anyway, but all too often gets skipped).


7 Posts

My mother in law is a nurse and has been for about ten years. She cannot tell left from right (although this may be due to differences in anatomical R/L or perspective R/L), often misspells her own son's name, and generally cannot have a plausible "if this, then that" thought. (for instance, a movie scene included a grown man grabbing onto a shark fin and hanging on as both he and shark leapt out of the water and back in, ultimately the man catching a ride to his final destination -- she exclaimed "That can't be real!" and we were all with her... until she followed up with "must've been a baby whale.") My point is, she's dingy a lot of the time... but she's a very good nurse and really loves her job. If you enjoy it, I think you'll pick it up (whatever "it" is that you have to check, recheck, or be clear on at all times). Some types of nursing may not be for you due to this, perhaps a very fast paced specialty would cause some trouble, but nursing is a wide field (:


7 Posts

queserasera, sounds like you've come up with quite a repertoire of coping skills! I love hearing about your experience -- very inspiring. I will check out the book you mentioned. Thanks!

ShelbyaStar, that's fantastic. It's nice to think maybe I too could become extra aware of my memory shortcomings and turn them into a strength.

LoveAura, that's so interesting about your mother-in-law. Mine was also a nurse for many years, and a lot of times I find her "real-life" judgment pretty questionable, but I have no doubts about her clinical judgment skills. (Another one of my worries -- making a stupid decision that hurts someone.) Hopefully training would iron out some of those gaps? I guess I won't know for sure until I take the plunge.

I'm interested in psych nursing (says the gal with zero experience in any kind of nursing. Nurses, feel free to smile knowingly!). But I'd prefer to be competent in any situation I might come across.


993 Posts

List. List. List. For everything. If I can get through school anyone can haha.


3,677 Posts

Specializes in L&D, infusion, urology. Has 2 years experience.

I can be quite forgetful. I have to write everything down. It's really important to have accurate information, so make sure that you can remember the difference between phenytoin, phenergan and fentanyl, because they all do different things are easy to confuse! Many of the words we hear each day can easily be confused, so paying attention is important, but no one expects you (nor should you expect of yourself) to remember every single thing. Most of us carry around a "brain" (yes, the commonly known slang term for it), which is a worksheet of some sort (you can make your own or find thousands online) where you write down everything. I write the times I gave meds, times patients discharge, if they ask me to bring them something, if I tell them I'll be back at a certain time, every single thing gets written down. It is a lifesaver when I go to chart!

Ruby Vee, BSN

67 Articles; 14,023 Posts

Specializes in CCU, SICU, CVSICU, Precepting & Teaching. Has 40 years experience.

Lists! Brain sheets! Scut sheets!

We can all be absent minded or forgetful at times, but with proper brain sheets and the alarms on my phone, I survive and so do my patients!

Most of what you complain about can be overcome by tricks and training. Many drug names sound alike, though, so you'll need to be extra vigilent there. I find that I don't forget things as easily if I've written them down, so I always write down the names of the drugs I'll be giving and the time I'll be giving them. That particular trick may or may not work for you, but my point is that you can find a trick that does.

Good luck!


7 Posts

Fortunately I don't get meds confused in my head. (I'm familiar with common outpatient drugs, or at least their names and what they're used for, from having transcribed office notes.) Just concerned the wrong one will come out of my mouth -- So it sounds like I'll just have to figure out a way of double-checking and make it second nature. That sounds doable.

It's reassuring to hear about the "systems" other people have developed. Thanks again!