Trying to get over a haunting first med error...

  1. So I'm new to this site and trying to let go of my first med error that happened about a year ago. Spoiler alert: I was suspended then terminated.

    My heart still drops and i've only been able to admit it to two people since it happened (other then my place of work of course).

    SOOO... I had been working for almost six months, my first nursing job out of LVN school. I was part time at a care home for the disabled (about an hour and a half away from my home). For around 5 months I cared for the same patients, due to a massive shortage in nurses I was sent to a different location where 2 nurses cared for 4 different houses driving distance away from each other.

    At about 3 weeks into my time at the new location I was assigned to the second half of the houses/patients the majority of them G-tubes and severely disabled (no verbal communication skills)... And The first night with the new clients I passed all meds from AM until HS at this house. At the HS pass I had my med error. I some how lost my train of thought, prepared medication for one client then proceeded to administer it via g-tube to the wrong client. I noticed my mistake while flushing the medication. Had a small heart attack tried to withdraw what i could of the medication, then followed protocol(vitals notifying everyone) including accompanying the patient to the ER. Where I had to describe what happened to the EMS that arrived at the home to transport the client, the fire fighters, the ER physicians and nurses all while trying to hold back tears, thinking how terrible this could be for the patient (luckily the patient had no reactions no changes but all i could (and still do) think about are the "what if's"). I was suspended that night and drove the hour and a half back home sobbing. I received my letter of termination about a month later.

    I feel/felt so inadequate as a nurse. I haven't really looked for work since the incident. I mean even if I did get an interview how would I explain that I was fired for a med error? I read some posts about first med errors but I didn't see any that resulted in termination. And i feel so bad because i was so confident I felt i was really helping people being a good nurse and patient advocate, until then I had no mistakes, great patient care, complements on my work, and I graduated second in my class. I enjoyed my job so much even when i had to wake up at 4 am to get there. When I was terminated by the company via letter and informed my original location manager, she offered to write me a letter of recommendation, which i haven't used because i'm still question my ability to be a nurse. I know I made a very bad mistake and luckily the patient had no effects from the medication they received in error... but I don't know how to come back from this?

    Can completely blanking and in 10 feet, getting mixed up and giving it to the wrong patient happen to anyone? Should I be a nurse? Am I over dramatic? Did I receive really harsh treatment from that company? I blame myself and think of all the things I could have done to prevent it. I think my first mistake was to be better rested. Since I was waking up at 4:30am to drive there then work until 10pm, Drive home(an hour and a half away) then wake up again at 4:30am. But I was so excited to have work and since it was so hard to find work out of nursing school and though the facility was well i will say less then well managed, the clients were so amazing to be around and have the opportunity to work with. I could have asked the company if clients could temporarily wear ID's while basically everyone was new since they had to suspend/terminate all of the previous nurses and CNA's due to a prior situation at the facility. (Another reason i think was automatically fired the company was dealing with a lot at the time. "we don't need ANY more mistakes" maybe would i have been fired at any facility for this type of mistake?)

    Uhg so many thoughts I really loved being a nurse and I have been occupying my self by distracting myself in full time schooling for a Bachelors degree (my excuse so I don't have to tell anyone why I am really not working as and LVN). But I am about 9 classes away from being able to transfer to an RN program and I'm just wondering: should I even try? Should I give up? Will anyone in an interview understand how terrible I feel about my mistake? Will I always be a bad nurse? what should could can i do about this black mark on my record?

    Honest feedback appreciated, but it also feels great to let it off my chest.

    Ps. Excuse the grammatical errors, which I assume there are many of, but I just wanted to pour my heart not write an essay. =/
  2. Visit LVNgiraffegirl profile page

    About LVNgiraffegirl

    Joined: Jan '13; Posts: 2; Likes: 1


  3. by   imintrouble
    I'm blown away by your honesty. You may not know it, but other nurses might have kept their mouth shut, monitored the resident, and lived with their mistake to save their job. After all, nobody knew, but you.
    All of us have made med errors. There are probably a few more in my future before I retire. Only perfect people make no mistakes. We don't announce them when interviewing for a new job. You don't have to, it's not a requirement.
    Unless you were reported to the BON there is no black mark on your record. You were fired. Again, alot of us here have been fired. It's not a death sentence to your nursing career.
    It helps to share the mistake with other nurses.
    Welcome to allnurses.
  4. by   uRNmyway
    Ok, well to start, yes, mistakes happen to everyone. Including experienced nurses. Feel free to browse the site, search 'med errors' and you will see you are far from being alone in this.
    The fact that nurses now work too many hours, don't sleep enough, have too many patients at one time, can't take breaks, etc, these are all reasons why we make mistakes. Unfortunately, without support from management, these things can't go away to reduce risks.

    If this was your one and only mistake, why would you think it makes you a bad nurse? Does being a nurse mean you lose all rights to be human and make mistakes? I think that after all this time, the fact that you are still obsessing over it and questioning yourself means that you genuinely care about your patients and their safety and well being.

    I also got fired from my first nursing job straight out of school. It was in the best mother-baby department in the city, and I was ecstatic to have gotten the job. I had excellent recommendations from all my nursing teachers. When I didn't manage to fit in with the cliques, the other nurses started nit-picking everything, right down to going behind me to ask my patients how I had done. Although I had had MANY patients tell me they loved me, once they started looking for problems they seized on one negative review (I was busy with a baby not doing well, and 'neglected' a new mommy who thought i should be in her room more often). Since I was still in my probation stage, they fired me.
    I was devastated and like you, questioned my career choice. I worked as a waitress for a while to make ends meet. To top it off, my former nurse manager was giving me bad references for jobs I was applying for.

    I kept at it, and ended up in a job that I loved. I had a difficult time initially getting over the previous criticisms, and it showed in my performance at first. But with help from colleagues, it got better.

    Now, will it be hard to put it behind you? Most likely. But hey, use it as a learning experience. When you do end up working in nursing again, you will pay that much more attention to what you do. You will make darn sure not to let yourself get distracted when you need to focus on a task.

    You'll be fine. Just don't give up!
  5. by   SCRUBS.RN
    You did the right thing by following protocol and notifying other staff members and doing what you can to prevent further damage. It is human nature for you to feel awful and guilty but just as the others have said, you are not alone and i guarantee you, most people are so concerned about their own rear end that they dont follow ethical procedures. Go for your BSN and good luck!
  6. by   Mommy&RN
    Did you say that the residents do not wear any ID? Plus many are nonverbal? That place is setting everyone up for med errors!
  7. by   OCNRN63
    I wish you were right here with me, because I would give you a big hug.

    You were not the problem there; it was the facility. There were so many issues with your situation that I had to jot them down. Here are a few that I noticed.

    1. Your schedule: Those hours were insane. Getting up to work at 0430 then working till 2200? Were you doing 14 hour shifts? You were getting ~ 5 hours of sleep. No one can function on that little sleep.

    2. Get that letter of recommendation from your former manager. You can use it when you apply for another position--and you will!

    3. You were working on little sleep, then dealing with unfamiliar patients who had no ID bands? Pt's are required to have ID; that's a violation by the facility. How were you supposed to be sure who your patients were? Did they have a picture of the patient in the MAR? I don't know if that qualifies as an ID in your facility per state regs, but it's not helpful when you're working with patients who are new to you.

    4. If the facility has terminated other nurses and CNAs for similar issues, that should be a huge red flag to you that they have problems. I think your mistake made you the sacrificial lamb. They terminated you in case the state or whoever oversees and licenses them makes a visit.

    5. Your patient did not suffer harm. Yes, he got the wrong med, but he's fine. Repeat this to yourself until it sinks in.

    Every nurse makes mistakes/med errors. Every one of us. It doesn't make us bad nurses, it's the nature of the work. You cannot allow one mistake that was made under extraordinarily sub-optimal conditions keep you from being a nurse. There's no reason you shouldn't work on getting your BSN, but I think you need to try to find another job so you can get your confidence back. You know the saying about when you fall off a horse you have to get back up on it? That's what you have to do.

    When you apply for another job, let them know what you learned from this experience and what you will do not to repeat it. Try not to bad-mouth the facility, even though it certainly would be tempting. If you don't get the job, tell yourself that it's OK and that you will find the right job.

    This was a terrible introduction to real-world nursing. It's not like that everywhere. Good luck to you; let us know how you do.
  8. by   brownbook
    Your post is one of the most courageous I've read.

    Hold your head high. Yes you made a med error, show me the nurse who hasn't and I will show you a liar. Don't be proud of the error, but be proud of how you handled it.

    If some idiot in an interview can't handle the truth, your truth, then **** them, you wouldn't want to work for them.
  9. by   solneeshka
    Something is wrong with a facility that would fire someone for making a med error that the nurse actually reported herself and then went to great lengths to make sure the patient was okay. They should have given you a raise. To answer your question, yes, you are being overly dramatic. Unless you never nurse again, you have not made your last Meds error! And even if you don't work as a nurse again, you'll make a Meds error at home at some point :-) If your facility had not scapegoated you but rather practiced an environment of just culture, everyone (including them) could have learned from it and all of their patients would be safer. Shame on them. Get another nursing job, we need more like you!
  10. by   T-Bird78
    We've all made med errors and sounds like your facility just tried to cover its own butt by firing you so they can say "that will never happen again, we've taken care of the problem" when they haven't. I worked in an allergy clinic and accidentally gave someone the wrong dose of their allergy shot while they were on build-up. Pt should have gotten .05 and I gave .5, and pt had a systemic reaction. Break out the epi and nebulizer and another round of epi and monitoring, luckily pt was okay but he wound up being late for school (we open early for pt's convenience) and missed the field trip bus! I felt so bad for the error, not only was it stupid (I just misread the previous dose given) and could have been fatal, but pt missed a special day too. It happens to all of us--you'll be fine.
  11. by   CrunchRN
    You are human. We all are. That hot xit nurse everyone thinks is perfect? She has a story like yours somewhere in her past if she was as honest as you which many would not have been.

    Now you need to have a way to put this behind you. In interviews explain what happened and your actions and how it has changed your future practice for the better because of what you have learned.

    All the best.
  12. by   Meriwhen
    You are not a bad nurse--you are merely a human one. And many nurses have been where you are...probably more of them than would care to admit. Your honesty and effort to make things right is admirable.

    I've been there. I owned up to it too. I did fare better, but that doesn't mean the whole thing didn't suck any less than it did. I felt as horrible as you do. But I learned what I could from it and moved on...and you will, eventually. The sun still rises every day, does it not?

    Your patient made it through OK. Give yourself a short period to finish beating yourself up over it (seriously, set a limit), then push it aside and focus on the future.

    Sincerely wishing you the best of luck.
  13. by   LVNgiraffegirl
    Thank you all for the kind words and encouragement! Reading all of your posts has made me feel so much better, like I can accept it and move on! I really feel I have a second wind and I am going to start to try again! I hope the people I interview with in the future are as understanding as all of you.

    I agree a large part of the problem was the facility but for the last year when ever I thought that i would tell myself to stop making excuses! I guess i really have to ease up on myself!

    Next question is... How do I approach that subject in an interview? I don't want to come off as purely bad mouthing and blaming the facility not owning up to my mistake. But I also don't want to come off as an incompetent nurse?

    Thank you all again! This has helped me so much to get out of my funk! =D
  14. by   rnnursingstudent
    I want to tell you what a person told me when I made my first mistake he looked at me and said we all have mistakes we all are human and I bet this will never happen again. and I said your right it won't happen again. Maybe this was just the universe trying to make you more aware and more careful. This is serious business and apply for another nursing job. I did and I owed up to my mistake and said look I did this but these are the steps that I am taking to ensure it never happens again and even offer to be on a trial basis to prove yourself or even somewhere where you don't have to be on the med cart... try private practice maybe for awhile but don't give up on all the other lives that you are going save help and influence because of fear its not worth it and you are so much better than that and I don't even know you

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