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Feeling terrible about a mistake I made in clinical


Hi there, senior nursing student here. The other day I had my first day of clinical in the PICU and I made a completely stupid and dangerous mistake. My poor patient was on numerous drips and have numerous IVs in her right arm. One of the IVs went bad over night shift, and another went bad soon after we completed our morning assessment. She really needed another IV and she was a very hard stick. After about 30 minutes of trying, the vascular access team finally got an IV on her.

Shortly after, we get busy by the doctors rounding, linen changes, trach suctioning, etc. The nurse then asks me if I can take out the IV that had gone bad upon our morning assessment. So I go ahead and take out the IV. It was the WRONG IV. I accidentally took out the brand new IV that they had just placed! Now the two IVs were very close to each other, both on the right forearm. However I still should have which was which considering I had watched them place the IV not even an hour ago. So basically I felt absolutely terrible and incompetent for the rest of the day. And worse, I will be working with this same nurse for the next month. I feel like I could write a book titled "How to make your preceptor hate you 101." Oh and even worse, this is the unit that I would like to be hired into when I graduate in 6 months.

The nurse continually told me throughout the day not to feel bad, that it wasn't that big of a deal, but I know it was. This patient was a critically ill patient. She needed that IV access. Thankfully they were able to place a midline in her later on that day, but still. It was completely my fault that they had to do that. I guess now I am asking for advice on how to mentally move past this, and on how to make it up to my preceptor. Are any hopes of becoming a PICU nurse completely ruined? Because I sure feel that way right now. I am trying to let it go and go into my next shift with a positive attitude, but I just feel like I have ruined the whole thing by this one mistake. Any comments and/or advice would be greatly appreciated.

Sour Lemon

Has 9 years experience.

If it makes you feel any better...

I once had a very hard stick patient that someone finally got a line in. I somehow managed to step on his IV tubing and rip the IV right out of his arm. I mean, it didn't fly out, but it dislodged from his vein and the dressing was only half on.

It was embarrassing for me, and unpleasant for the patient (to put it lightly). I got a few side glances for that one, but things do happen and everybody recovered from the incident. At least you are a student, I was a new grad just off orientation.

I'm still insanely clumsy, but I've managed not to repeat that specific mistake. I think you'll be alright, just don't do the same thing next week.

If every nurse that was a member of this site were to enter just one post on a really stupid thing they did as a new nurse or student you wouldn't have time to read through the endless pages of thousands of mistakes!

OK you did something you wished you hadn't, it made you look foolish or at least you think it did. Chances are excellent that while more senior nurses at that facility rolled their eyes because of the mishap not one of them thought you incompetent. Just new. It isn't the kind of thing that tarnishes your future, I swear. Self-deprecation goes a long way, as in saying "yeah, that was me that managed to pull a perfectly good, brand new IV from a hard-stick patient, left my brain home that morning!" No one interviewing you has never made a mistake along those lines.

Be thankful your patient wasn't harmed. You didn't inject the wrong med and you didn't miss one either. As trespasses go, this is one you can easily recover from. Don't beat yourself up over this forever. Acknowledge it, own it, don't make light of it in front of senior nurses of course but please do move on 🙂

rockchickrn, ADN

Specializes in Psych. Has 26 years experience.

Please don't be so hard on yourself. This was an honest mistake. Just take what you learned from it and move forward. BTW sounds like this pt. Needs a central line or picc.....

nalie2, ADN, BSN, RN

Has 4 years experience.

Don't be so hard on yourself! Just take it as an opportunity for learning. Double check next time before removing an IV especially if the patient has multiples. Learn from it and let it go. I wouldn't even bring it up again especially if your preceptor said it was fine.

Leader25, ASN, BSN, RN

Specializes in NICU. Has 38 years experience.

I am glad this happened to you,you will learn from this and it will never happen again,you will become more careful.Promise yourself you will become the be all to end all best iv nurse ever when the time comes.If you like I will give you my pocket size transilluminator .Good luck  and make the most of learning from this.


Specializes in Pharmacist.

Hi, don’t be too hard on yourself. Lesson learned. I am a clinical pharmacist and I precept students. As a preceptor, we understand that you are still learning and with time (just like your preceptor when we first started out) we just gain more and more experience and we learn from any mistake so that we can better ourselves professionally. Also, thank god for people like you who show empathy and care for your patients. Good luck with everything and remember you are doing the best you can and can only get better from here on out.

Damion Jenkins, MSN, RN

Specializes in NCLEX Prep Expert - 100% Pass Rate!. Has 11 years experience.

When a preceptor tells you - it's not that big of a deal - listen to them. 

Yes. You made a mistake. Yes. That mistake probably resulted in a delay in care due to the patient not being able to get all of the IV medications they needed in a timely manner. 

However, with a critically ill patient who is a difficult stick - a midline or central line would be the BEST way to prevent ongoing issues with IV access. This patient would've most likely lost the new IV sooner than later and would've required more advance access anyhow. 

Now - to help you move past your feelings of messing up - Make a promise to yourself that you'll do better next time. Quadruple check before you move forward with tasks, meds, procedures, etc. Make sure you have the correct information to be safe and provide the correct care. 

In all my years as a nurse and nurse educator - I will NEVER forget my mistakes because they remind me of how easy it is to screw up. This give me the motivation and drive to always do better. Be prudent, and try your damndest to not let the pressures of doctors, other nurses, and patients get you flustered. When you feel you are getting overwhelmed or flustered - ask for help, and/or take a couple minutes to deep breathe and ground yourself. Staying focused on what you are doing is not an easy feat - but it is necessary to provide the safest care possible. 

Good luck to you!