We all know that it is impossible to go through life without making a mistake. Yet mistakes have such a negative connotation and, unfortunately, in the nursing profession some mistakes have serious consequences.
I think we should see mistakes as learning opportunities. It took Thomas Edison over 1,000 tries to make the light bulb. When he was asked why you continued after failing over 1,000 time, he said “I learned over 1,000 ways how not to make a light bulb.” I love his reframe. In the nature of being human, mistakes can and do happen. However, the most important thing is what we can learn from the mistake and then move forward from the error. One aspect of learning from a mistake is determining how to prevent it from happening again.
It’s license renewal time in Indiana and all nurses must disclose whether they were terminated or reprimanded in their capacity as a registered nurse. Many nurses made an innocent mistake that resulted in reprimand or even termination.
However, making a mistake should not define you. It is a learning opportunity. Many times mistakes are a system issue. Hopefully, your employer will learn from the mistake and figure out how to improve things. If it is a system error, for instance, a new procedure could ensure that the mistake does not happen again.
It is also concerning to me that when nurses make a mistake and are up front about it, they are written up, disciplined or terminated by the employer rather than being helped to learn from their mistake and figure out how to improve the nurse and the services provided. Shouldn’t nurses who immediately recognize their mistake and report it, be helped rather than chastised?
It is unfortunate that we are becoming a disposable society where if a person makes a mistake, the person can be terminated rather than taught a better mode of practice by learning from the mistake. Nursing culture needs to change.
Sadly, it was a little bit better when there was more of a nursing shortage where hospitals simply could not afford to lose key personnel. But this is the society that we live in now so we just have to make the best of it and stick together to encourage change so a mistake is just that, a mistake and we can learn from it.
If you do make a mistake, be up front about it and learn from it and take a stand to change the culture in nursing to be more supportive and growth oriented.