learning from mistakes...too many?

Nurses Safety


I have been an RN for 3yrs now. I believe it is unreasonable to be perfect, yet I am incredibly hard on myself for any mistakes I have ever made! I always reassure my co-workers that a mistake is a learning experience, but when it comes to myself I just can't accept that! I remember as a new grad taking short cuts like only swabbing a central line port for 30 secs vs 60 secs just because someone said it was not a big deal(but this was not our policy). Or missing an important med because the staff making the MAR forgot to write the time the med was due. Or holding an NG feed for a few hours until the doc was contacted because the pH was too high during placement check(the doc was soooo mad that the feed was paused!). Or not being caring enough at times when a shift is hectic/busy. And one time I forgot to swab a buretrol before putting a med into a central line. I almost died, but was too new and stunned to think about changing the line, so I just ran the med(charge nurse didn't give any direction at the time either). Are these types of mistakes huge? In my mind they are. Why can't I let them go and chalk it up to learning like I preach to so many others. Is it "normal" for nurses to make some poor choices as they develop in their careers. Do other people make mistakes(no need to be specific) and harbor low self worth/esteem. I find nursing to be such a HUGE responsibility, people are trusting us with their lives...so much pressure to be flawless! I am told by my co-workers that I am an excellent nurse and a great teamworker(I'm the unit support gal), but I don't feel it. I can help others, but not myself in this circumstance! Can anyone reassure me that I am progressing as expected, or does it sound like I need more fine tuning? Sorry so long!

Because we are progressing all the time, we will never be as good as we will be the last time we do whatever it is we are doing.

Same goes for nursing.

Yet, if we do not practice our profession, we make no progress at all.

You may have unreasonable expectations for yourself, and maybe not just about nursing.

Chances are, others are looking at you and thinking, why can't I be as good as she is?

We humans with heart tend to compare our "insides" to others' "outsides," and perhaps punish ourselves for not measuring up. But how could we? We are being unfair.

If we are kinder to ourselves, we tend to do a better job--and enjoy ourselves more!

Remember the old "have you hugged your kid/dog/nurse/mother/whatever today" bumperstickers? Maybe a good mental bumpersticker would be "have I hugged myself today?" because we all deserve goodies--especially from ourselves!

A wonderful friend, who happens to be a nurse, shared with me that she says over and over (and now I do too) "I am worth every effort I make on my own behalf." And she is. And so am I.

And so are you.


87 Posts

missbandaid-i believe you are progressing just fine. we all make mistakes. some of us just hide or deny it. some mistakes are made because we are overwhelmed with chaos. understaffing and patient overloads contribute to mistakes. just slow down a bit, take a breath, and remember your abc's. airway, breathing, circulation. in other words, prioritorize. be sure that the essentials are taken care of first. when it doubt...ask or look it up. i'll probably still be looking things up when i retire. in time with practice and repetitive tasks you will become more confident in your abilities. i'm sure you are a great nurse. you truly seem to be a caring individual. best of luck to you. ((((missbandaid))))


20 Posts

Thank you so much. It really helps to hear it from others in the profession, and sometimes you just can't share openly with a co-worker. My boyfriend can tell me I'm a good nurse...but what does he really know! Some of my co-workers seem so laid back, and others worry over things that surprise me. I guess we all have our own comfort zone. I KNOW in my heart mistakes happen and it is a learning process, but you are both right; I am too hard on myself. You are correct, I am over concerned with ALL aspects of my life, frequently overanalysing and making myself feel bad. I'm going to try to hug myself a little more! I made a little motto for myself a few months ago: "Check if you're not sure, Ask if you don't know, Do the best you can!" We do the best we can.:)

Specializes in Psych, Med/Surg, Home Health, Oncology.

Hi :)

You are So hard on yourself!! Some of the other posters probably said it better, but really you just need to be the best you can be at any given time!!

Half the battle is knowing when you make a mistake and learning from it!!

You are growing in your profession!! My goodness, three years is really very little time--give yourself a chance and a break!! You need to be just a bit easier on yourself.

You sound like a very caring young nurse and young woman; your boyfriend may not be a nurse or may not see you at work or in your working mode, but he can see you as a human being and can see how3 good you really are.

Keep it up; the learning never stops-- never let it stop;I have been doing this 38 years & I still learn new things all the time & yes, I still make mistakes!!

The way you sound, you can be my nurse any day!!

Be just a bit easier on yourself!!

Mary Ann


87 Posts

the way you sound, you can be my nurse any day!!

be just a bit easier on yourself!!

mary anni'll second that!!...you can be my nurse anyday, also. remember we are our own worst critics. :kiss


32 Posts

" when the going gets tough, the tough gets going"... always remember that. Like you, I criticize myself too much whenever I make mistakes. It's a never ending struggle to make nurses perfect. One thing though, do not repeat a mistake. that's when we really learn. The worst thing about making a mistake is not recognizing it. But you did recognize your own. Way to go girl! You're normal... just like the rest of us! Enjoy working and learning!


20 Posts

Thank you all. Maybe I am being too hard on myself. I guess I thought after nursing school I had everything I needed, yet the workplace is constantly posing challenges that I hadn't imagined! And going into my fourth year I expected that I would be super nurse by now! Your understanding and thoughts mean a lot to me. I have been processing them for a few days and I think that I can get through this:rolleyes:


115 Posts

the way you sound, you can be my nurse any day!!

be just a bit easier on yourself!!

mary ann

i'll second that!!...you can be my nurse anyday, also. remember we are our own worst critics. :kiss add me if i need care i want a nurse like you to care for me. just lower your self induced stress. the job will give plenty of stress on it's own:chuckle


155 Posts

Bandaid, you are being way to hard on yourself. Remember, everyone makes mistakes. Yes, it is very frustrating, but you will learn from them and when you learn from them, you can share your experiences with someone else. In turn, they can learn from you! I have caught myself making mistakes and told other nurses what I have done (or almost done) and a large percentage of the time there is always someone that says, "Wow, I never new that. Thanks for sharing the information." This makes me feel better because I have prevented someone else from repeating the same error. The tricky thing with a mistake is that often, you don't even realize that you've made one until someone else points it out! I have also learned from experience that just because someone has been a nurse for many, many years, doesn't necessarily mean they make less mistakes. I feel that nurses who are too 'secure' with everything are often the most dangerous. They feel that don't double (or triple) check things because they think they have done it right the first time. It's a slippery slope. Your doing fine though! You sound like a terrific nurse.

Tweety, BSN, RN

33,552 Posts

Specializes in Med-Surg, Trauma, Ortho, Neuro, Cardiac.

Dito what everyone else said. Take it easy one yourself. But I can relate, I've been a nurse a lot longer and still beat myself up for not being perfect. My worst issue is charting. I get home and think "dang I didn't chart well, and I forgot to document....blah blah blah.......". It's a tough job.

Hang in there are best wishes.

Specializes in MICU, neuro, orthotrauma.

I was a nurse for two months before I took a year off to care for my new baby. I am back at work now in a new facility, in a new state, and have been on the floor orienting for two weeks. The last shift I worked, I made TWO mistakes. Both med errors.

I wrote down 159 instead of 129 for blood sugar after hearing the PCT say "159," and did not check to make sure it was that number. I gave 4 units reg insulin based on that. Pt was fine, on decadron adn eating up a storm so her blood sugar actually went up and stayed up all day, so it definitely didn't harm her to get the extra 4 units that day. Still, I was so shaken from this experience. I cried and my preceptor felt so sorry for me, he kept reassuring me all day that I was doing well. Whcih I knew came from feeling sorry for me rather than being proud of me.

I also, took from the PYXIS reglan and DHE and gave the reglan, but did not follow up with the DHE ten minutes later. It was 7pm, shift change, I was giving the med to a patient I was not giving report on (it was offically my preceptors patient, but I said I would give the med) so although I told my preceptor that I put the DHE in the patients med cart, I didn't tell the night nurse that information. She left a message on my machine which I didn't get until the next day saying she didn't know if I gave the med or not.

It was two days ago, and this is all I can think about.

It's nightmarish making mistakes. I can't stand it. The guilt is overwhelming and I don't know how to feel better about it. I wish I knew when the night nurse worked again, so i could ring her up. Maybe I can get her home number, so i can know what happened.

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