Landing Your Dream Nursing Job: What to Do If You Mess Up

Landing Your Dream Nursing Job: What to Do If You Mess Up

Mackenzie Thompson

by Mackenzie Thompson

Life Saver, AMC

posted on Jan 6, 2017, at 5:50 pm


EVERY NURSE STARTS his or her career with the same goal of being the ideal caregiver, giving medications on time, preventing falls indefinitely and providing superior quality of care. While this is ideal, it is not realistic. You will have strenuous days, work extra hours, simply forget to pull that last dosage of medication and make a mistake as a nurse. Hopefully, it will not cause permanent injury to your patients, but keeping your dream nursing job depends on taking the correct actions when it happens to you.

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1. Recognize Your Mistakes

Think back to any job you had where you worked with the perfect employee. He or she “never” made mistakes, and even when the mistake was obvious, the immediate response was nothing more than denial and justification. This is not the way to approach mistakes in nursing. You must learn to recognize your mistakes. If you always think you are impervious to them, you will never grow in your career. Also, you could seriously endanger the lives of your patients when you do learn from your experiences as a nurse.

2. Admit Your Mistake Immediately

Upon realizing you made mistake, you need to admit it immediately. This includes telling your charge nurse, nurse manager and the patient, depending on the mistake’s severity. In other words, time is of the essence when correcting mistakes that could be fatal, such as giving an extremely high dosage of medication due to not reading physician’s orders closely.

3. Try to Correct the Mistake

You must do anything and everything you can to reduce the damage from a mistake. If it is a medication error, you need to think about what the medication is and how it affects bodily systems. This is crucial to preventing health problems, including dramatic changes to blood pressure or the effects of recent health care procedures.

4. Complete Any Necessary Paperwork, and Follow up With Your Supervisor

You will need to fill out an incident report or other documentation for your facility to appropriately manage a mistake. While it can be tempting to avoid filling such paperwork if the mistake is addressed and corrected, it is better to explain the full situation to your superiors that to have them hear about it from a third party. Depending on the nature of the mistake, you may be asked to complete additional training requirements for your facility.

You Must Always Forgive Yourself Too

Mistakes are not intentional, but they do happen in nursing. You must be willing to accept the consequences of your mistakes, act to correct them, report the incident and forgive yourself. You can make a mistake and keep your dream nursing job if you follow these steps.

About Mackenzie

Mackenzie is a lover of world travel, photography, design, style and Chinese cooking. She is passionate about working towards a purpose, recently graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Media and Marketing, and is currently residing in Manhattan.

Contact Mackenzie at

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