First Mistake... Can't shake bad feelings


Has 8 years experience.

Hi all! I am a brand new nurse who has been orienting on a Med Surg floor for a couple of months and I just had my SEVENTH solo shift.

I made a mistake. The mistake did not hurt the patient, but could have. I got lucky. I do not want to go into too many details, but let me just say, it was the type of mistake that scares me because I had no idea I was doing something wrong nor did I even question what I was doing. I was a routine thing, that I have done a bunch of times, just something special with this patient.

I can not shake this feeling. I know I messed up, but now I am terrified and full of anxiety. I know I should be thankful the patient is okay, but this has shaken me to my core. I am not in trouble at work, they just chalked it up to a learning experience. I am scared to go back. How did everyone get through their first major mistake?

Pangea Reunited, ASN, RN

Has 6 years experience. 1,547 Posts

I got through mine by realizing that nobody really cared as much I did. The world just kept on spinning. I cried for about two days straight, too.

It happens to everybody. You and I were lucky in that no one was hurt. You probably feel like the loneliest person in the world right now, but you are not alone. It might help if you can talk to other nurses about the mistakes they've made, but people don't like to talk about those sorts of things for obvious reasons.



Specializes in Home Health. 298 Posts

Chalk it up to a learning experience and know that you have to look at every patient individually. My first mistake: I "poured up" my meds with room numbers on the bottom of each cup. Set them all up on my clipboard and started passing them out. Next to the last room, I took the meds in and reviewed from my MAR what each pill was for. I had to get 2 of this med to make the dose and oops how did that colace get in there, rationalizing each thing as I went. The patient had a difficult time swallowing pills and questioned why there were soooo many meds. I explained it ALL away. Went to room 43, my last room, and picked up my med cup only to realize that it had 42 written on it. I had just given the wrong meds (valium, requip, sleeper, etc) to room 42. There were SO many red flags but I was too dumb, arrogant, whatever to stop and THINK! I NEVER "poured up" my meds again. I took each med IN.THE.PACKAGE to each room. Reviewed every single one and compared it to the MAR. Luckily, my pt was not injured other than her overnight observation was turned into an admit. I felt HORRIBLE! We all make mistakes. Learn from yours. It will be ok! :hugs:


Specializes in Hem/Onc/BMT. Has 11 years experience. 5 Articles; 404 Posts

It's understandable how anxious this is making you feel. Also, I think it shows you are a cautious, conscientious nurse. But if the anxiety is so great that you're scared to go to work, then it is a problem. Look at it this way:

You will not make the same mistake again. And you are now a safer nurse than you were before the incident.

chicookie, BSN, RN

Specializes in Peds Hem, Onc, Med/Surg. Has 8 years experience. 985 Posts

It will be ok! I have made lots of mistakes. None of them hurt the patient but I felt horrible! It does happen though. One I remember is that I hung chemo without giving pre-meds. It was an hour long chemo so the zofran was only an hour late but STILL. My patient tolerated the chemo just fine. It just showed me to be more careful. I've pulled labs from the long line. I've given wrong fluids(IE instead of D5 1/2NS+ 20k instead I used D5 1/2NS +10k). I've forgotten to draw labs. It does happen. We are only human. Even nurses that have done this for years make mistakes. Just be thankful you didn't hurt anyone, learn from it and be more careful.


Specializes in L&D. Has 2 years experience. 947 Posts

I made my first big mistake a bout 2 months ago. My pt got up to go to the bathroom and I hooked her IVs back up and hooked up the Pitocin at her LR rate and the LR rate at the Pitocin rate. It wasn't on for long(maybe 10-15min) but could have been bad as well, thankfully it wasn't, but I learned to always always always monitor my lines and double check them!

Big Blondie, ASN, BSN, MSN, APRN

Has 34 years experience. 473 Posts

Oh how well I remember my first mistake over 25 years ago! Making rounds with the doctor, he told me to increase the IV to 125, which I did immediately. Problem was he didnt realize it was Theophylline running, and as a new nurse, I didnt question the doctor! After an hour of nausea and vomiting, my relief finally realized what the deal was. She reduced the rate, and the patient settled down. I have made mistakes since then, and the ones I know about are vivid. Each mistake Ive made, I have learned from. We are human, and will make mistakes. When you are green you are growing...when you are brown you are full of....

Just trying to stay green!

Ruby Vee, BSN

Specializes in CCU, SICU, CVSICU, Precepting & Teaching. Has 40 years experience. 67 Articles; 14,000 Posts

To err is inevitable -- we're all human and no human is perfect. Anyone who tells you they've never made a mistake is either lying or too stupid to realize they've made a mistake. A mistake SHOULD scare you -- there is nothing so scary as a new nurse who laughs off her mistakes. So you're not only human, but you've had the right response to a mistake!

Now you have to forgive yourself and move on. It's very difficult sometimes, but it's necessary. If you let every mistake eat you alive, you won't last.

We all make mistakes. I've made some doozies, and not every mistake leaves the patient unharmed. Years later, there are times I still wake up sick to the core after a mistake I once made. But I've made progress in getting over it, and you can too. What helped me the most was journalling about it. Sometimes, even if I didn't know what to say or even if I thought I didn't have anything to say, just sitting down and writing for 20 minutes helped. (Sometimes it was 20 minutes of "I don't know what to write; this is ridiculous!" But more often, it was 2 minutes of "I don't know what to write," and then feelings I didn't even know I had would begin to emerge.)

Your co-workers will judge you more by your response to making a mistake than they will by the fact that you've made one. So let your response be as classy and as healthy as possible. Forgive yourself. Everyone else probably already has.


29 Posts

I know how it feels! I am so hard on myself anytime I make one.. but unfortunately we will make more in the future even thought we try so hard not to because we are humans.. as simple as that.. Take a deep breath, go out distract yourself from it..


175 Posts

My first mistake was like that. Didn't harm anyone, I brought it up to my manager to help me work through it because it just gnawed at me! I really think that's good though because it has really taught me to be super careful and double check myself!

DisneyNurseGal, BSN, RN

Has 8 years experience. 568 Posts

Wow everyone. I do not even know how to begin to thank you for all of your responses, and I promise you I took them all to heart. I appreciate allnurses so much and it is so nice to know that I am not alone! Back to work tomorrow (after 5 scheduled days off) and the pit in my stomach has gone away. Tomorrow is another day!


2 Posts

Everyone makes mistakes! Don't be embarrassed. After talking with you, watching you work and seeing how upset and concerned you were after you made this mistake, I'm sure that your supervisor and your co-workers empathize with you and are proud to have such a caring, dedicated and conscientious nurse working with them and their patients. All of us have made mistakes; and, though we may not want to talk about them, we all know how you feel...and we also know that, just like we did, you have learned from your mistake. I'm sure you have taken this opportunity to learn and make yourself a better nurse. We all know something new every day. I'm so glad that your patient was unharmed as well. Good luck to you!