Confession of an imperfect nurse

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Today’s post comes from Nurse Carolyn, who asks, ‘who wants to be a perfect nurse’?

There is an old adage, ‘most nurses have, at some time, made a drug error’. I am one of those nurses.

The drug in question was a half dose of something that would have had no ill effects anyway. However, I felt mortified and still reported it, even though the doctors advised me not to bother.

After completing full records and complete over-monitoring of a bemused patient, I was invited to a meeting with two hospital managers. I had additional reasons for my distress – a relative had passed away, possibly aided by a drug error. I considered myself to be unfit for nursing.

Fortunately, the wise manager decided he would take no further action, though he would act if it re-occurred.

Indeed, research indicates, if too harsh a decision is taken in a case like this, other nurses will not report drug errors, enabled particularly by the one-nurse drug round.

On reflection, I learnt that no nurse is perfect. Any nurse who thinks he or she is perfect is a most dangerous nurse indeed. Perfection may mean that individuals fail to report or consider errors and they may be reluctant to listen to others. However, in the battle to compete and survive within nursing, many believe they are expected to be a perfect nurse.

How can nurses be perfect when their whole role builds upon interactions between multiple types of individuals? Not to mention plain errors – which may be enhanced by short staffing. I hasten to add that in my case it was not short staffing, if it is possible to say that when I was working in a context without established minimum staffing levels.

This example also offers assistance to students. Do not aim to be a perfect nurse, for who defines that perfection? You, the patient or the manager? Aim only to do your best and reflect upon your actions and experiences. And be able to discuss any errors – for which you really do need a supportive team and manager.

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