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unsafe new nurse


I had a bad experience at work and I am wondering if I am a good fit for this job. I'm a new grad working as an RN for the first time in a busy med-surg floor, ratio 5-1. I carry the whole pt load with some help here and there. I have been with a preceptor approximately 7 weeks. I attempted to start an IV for my pt today and after 2 failed attempts grabbed my preceptor which had no issue helping me out. Here's where the problem lies: I can't explain why I didn't throw out the second needle after I attempted to start the IV for abx infusion. I either left it on the bedside table or bed (I couldn't understand my preceptor because of her accent plus my nerves didn't allow me to hear everything she said). She was understandably upset, (to make matters worse, the pt is + for viral infx) about possibly getting sticked.

Did I think, I'm coming right back in with my preceptor to observe & I'll know where I left my stuff? Was I worried the antibiotic is late? Was I worried I'm behind again with all my pts. Thinking back I thought all of these but these are inexcusable for what I did. This isn't my first mistake and I know it won't be my last but geesh I can't help but think this was B - A - D. Has anyone out there made it through after doing something along these lines: you know it's unsafe but you're unfocused and aren't thinking? That's the best I can describe this situation.

Take a deep breath. Don't flush your career down the toilet because of a mistake. Did your preceptor actually get stuck?

Rule #1 from now on (and I bet you will never forget) dispose of all sharps immediately after use. You do not want to risk anyone getting stuck. I find that if the mistakes we make early in our career freak us out enough, we generally don't make that mistake again. You sound freaked out enough!

To answer your question, yes, I made an error as a new nurse when I was distracted after a code. I reflected on what went wrong and how to prevent the error from ever happening again. In 30+ years, I have not repeated this error. Forgive yourself. Move on. Have a long, wonderful, and needle stick free career!

Edited by enuf_already


Has 1 years experience.

It's a mistake. You'll make plenty. I know I have. What is important is to be able to center yourself and think things through. You have to slow yourself down and focus your brain on the more critical stuff. I still talk myself through stuff to make sure I didn't skip a step. Everybody makes mistakes. The problem is if you don't learn from them.

Here.I.Stand, BSN, RN

Specializes in SICU, trauma, neuro. Has 16 years experience.

((((Hugs)))) We've all made mistakes. Even your preceptor has made mistakes. (I don't know her, but if she's been an RN long enough to be precepting...) I've forgotten a needle too; I wasn't within arm's reach of the sharps container, I left the room, and found it where I'd set it on the tray table. But you know what? You'll probably never do it again. ;) I know it's a hard lesson when someone else finds it and gets upset, but keep telling yourself that we've all made mistakes. Learn from this one, and then forgive yourself.

sallyrnrrt, ADN, RN

Specializes in critical care, ER,ICU, CVSURG, CCU.

trust me in my 43+yrs. as RN.....I have made similar mistakes.....I try and have been fairly successful in turning it to a teaching moment......

hang on, shake it off, learn from it.....

as us "ole fossils".....need some relief.....

best wishes, you will be fine ;)

Yes, of course. I failed to read the P&P prior to hanging blood. No harm done thank heavens but it was pivotal and I grew into a detailed oriented focused nurse, I don't know how but I learned how to flip the switch and gear down/ignore distractions when I need to.

Since it's both important immediately and will benefit you in the future, research and practice some emotion focused coping strategies.

BrandonLPN, LPN

Has 5 years experience.

As others have said, we all make mistakes, and hopefully we learn from them and become better nurses. You learned an important lesson the hard way.

Shortly after getting my license, I made a nasty transcription error that resulted in an equally nasty med error. A patient ended up getting a large dose of haldol that was never ordered for them as a result. I was full of guilt, shame and embarrassment. All doubled because the nurse who administered the dose only did so because of me transcribing it on the wrong patient.

Rather than disciplining me, I was lucky in that this was treated as a learning opportunity. I became very meticulous about noting and transcribing orders, and I even helped to reform our noting and chart checking procedures. And everyone has long since forgotten that error, and noting large volumes of orders accurately has become one of my strengths.

So don't think that making a mistake=you're a bad nurse. Bad nurses are nurses who don't admit that they make mistakes. You can't learn from your mistakes if you aren't even willing to admit that you make them.

Edited by BrandonLPN

LadyFree28, BSN, RN

Specializes in Pediatrics, Rehab, Trauma. Has 10 years experience.

These things happen to nurses all the time; the most empowering thing you can do is correct your missteps and not make such a misstep or any of your missteps again; they are correctable, teachable moments.

Sending positive vibes.


Specializes in critical care.

You describe the conversation your preceptor had with you, and in that description you mention that you didn't hear everything she said both because she was hard to understand, and because you were so nervous. Is it typical for you to not hear all of what is being said because you are nervous? If so, this sounds like you are experiencing anxiety (the kind that clutters your thoughts and judgment), which can be a significant hinderance to you when you are mentally checking yourself to make sure you're doing things accurately.

When this happens, take a step back, and try to do some deep breathing. Count to ten, allow yourself to feel the anxiety while you count to ten. Then, deep breathe again, only this time, focus on nothing but your breathing, and your count. (Go to ten, or longer if you think you need it.) Then look at the task in front of you, and do it.

If you find it is a big struggle to get rid of the anxiety, you may want to consider other ways to help yourself with it. Talking things out with your preceptor (who understands, I promise!), having a friend outside of work you can unload on from time to time, a brainless hobby (I love to color!), an hour on a treadmill, or anything diversional to help decompress would be good.

And if you still struggle, consider seeking professional help. Your hospital likely has an employee assistance plan you can look into, or you can get a referral from your primary care for a therapist to help. If you do genuinely have anxiety, professional help can go a long way. These mistakes won't feel so enormous. You'll feel more at ease when your preceptor corrects you. Your mind will be clearer.

Anyway, you get my point! Hugs to you! This time is the hardest, but you will survive it. Hang in there!

Thank you all so much for sharing your mistakes, the advice, & words of encouragement, (I got teary eyed). I do & will continue to research unfamiliar tasks when I'm home but I haven't done much in stress/anxiety reduction strategies. I'll have to practice these right away! Thanks again.

nrsang97, BSN, RN

Specializes in Neuro ICU and Med Surg. Has 20 years experience.

You are human. You will make a mistake. I have made mistakes as well. I had a patient getting DDAVP with specific parameters. Her urine output, and specific gravity met the parameters, but her sodium did not. I gave it and she ended up lethargic, and needing a bolus of 3% NaCl. I learned from that mistake and will never make the same mistake again. I was an experienced nurse when I made this mistake.

You will be fine. Step back and deep breath.

No one should be getting mad at you when you're a beginner, rather they should help you learn and not repeat the mistake. Seriously your preceptor has almost certainly made worse mistakes at a time later in her career with more years under her belt. You are a few weeks in. I like the reply from BrandonLPN: it's a teaching moment. You should learn from it, your trainer should take the opportunity to teach. The environment you're in is not supportive? Good luck, try to be a kind and supportive voice to yourself. Last week a nurse w ten+ years on my unit made a transcription error that could have killed the patient if a colleague on next shift had actually administered it. The other nurse caught the error. No one was mean to the senior nurse about it. There's a ton of mistakes you'll probably make once, and even when you are more experienced. Maybe your preceptor will make one in future, and you'll get to decide if you want to try to make her feel small in return or not.

I understand where you're coming from juana15. I'm also a new nurse and in a few days I will also be on my own. I'm not one to get very anxious and can usually keep my cool. However, I've found that there is so much to think about that it gets overwhelming. Yesterday, I felt like I was rushing through the morning, that I didn't really "soak-in" what I was doing. When it came to my afternoon med, I needed to ask my preceptor how to give a certain med. She reminded me that we give it just like we did that morning. I was so embarrassed and a bit stunned that I had forgotten that I had done this.

Now I'm wondering if I'm going to remember anything when I get on my own.

sallyrnrrt, ADN, RN

Specializes in critical care, ER,ICU, CVSURG, CCU.

in my almost 43yr. practice , let me tell you "i never made a mistake"......NOT!

each error or kax in oerformance can be a learning experience, dont beat your self up....we "olefossils" need your help ;)

Well you'll never do that again. Forgive yourself and carry on !

A lot of our mistakes and near mistakes are avoided by just slowing down and really thinking about what we are doing at the moment.

I was thinking that exact thought today caliotter3. As I think back on stuff I think: I should've slowed down! I am reminded think safety whenever completing a task. Thank you guys for the advice !! I've had better days since then & hoping to continue improving on the floor :)

i found a used needle in a pt room today and i thought about this thread. i probably left it there earlier.