Doctor Reported my Mistake to Clinical Instructor

  1. Dear Nurse Beth,

    I am finishing up my first year in a 3-year graduate nursing program. On my last day of OB-GYN clinical, I made a huge mistake in patient identity (due to a lapse in attention in front of the pediatricians) that I fixed immediately.

    However, I failed to report my mistake immediately to my instructor, not out of fear or lack of caring, but because "I thought I had fixed it and avoided something worse happening, so I should move on, correct?". About an hour after it happened, my clinical instructor informed me that the doctors were upset and that I would have to be reprimanded by the course instructor and monitored in future
    clinicals. The incident is now on my clinical evaluation form from OB-GYN. Will a mistake I made in clinical that I learned from affect my future career prospects (i.e., stay on a record)?

    I am very anxious and feeling depressed over what I did and I don't know how to move on. The anxiety is going to keep me from making that mistake again, but I can't help that the whole scenario plays in my head on repeat.

    Dear Depressed,

    So you made a mistake that the pediatrician observed, and the pediatrician went to your instructor. There was no patient harm, but it was a serious lapse in procedure.

    What made it worse was that your clinical instructor was blindsided by the pediatrician reporting the incident. As you now know, it would have been better to have notified your instructor yourself, as not doing so could be seen as covering up your mistake. It also would have prepared your clinical instructor for the discussion with the pediatrician. No one likes to be taken by surprise.

    Receiving a warning in school does not carry forward to an employer, don't worry. Employers basically want to know if you graduated, and perhaps your GPA, but your clinical evaluation forms are not discoverable by future employers.

    The anxiety over making a mistake will fade, as you realize you're human and make mistakes like everyone. Where exactly in the process did you veer from the correct procedure? Identify your actions that led to the error. Often times in hospitals there are contributing factors that cascade and result in a clinician making a mistake.

    The important thing is to learn from your experience and use it to help shape your nursing practice.

    Best wishes,

    Nurse Beth

    Author, "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job"...and your next!
    Last edit by tnbutterfly on May 31
  2. Visit Nurse Beth profile page

    About Nurse Beth, MSN, RN

    Joined: Mar '07; Posts: 1,538; Likes: 4,554
    Nursing Professional Development Specialist; from CA , US
    Specialty: Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho