5 Rookie Medical Errors in Nursing to Avoid

medical errors in nursingBy Erin Wallace

Did you know that medical errors are now the third leading cause of death in the U.S., according to a study by John Hopkins?

A small medical error, whether related to medicine administration or advice given, could have severe consequences.

While in nursing school and on the job, you'll likely receive plenty of training on preventing medical errors in nursing. 

But also remember this: every nurse is human, and you're bound to make a mistake along the way. 

That said, there are more than a few common medical errors in nursing made by rookie and veteran nurses, and familiarizing yourself with them is important to their prevention.

Medical Errors in Nursing: 5 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid

1. Giving advice you're not qualified to give

Yes, you are a medical professional with plenty of knowledge of many different areas, and you may even have specialized training in specific disciplines. But some medical advice just needs to come from the doctor.

Dr. Pamela Reilly points out a simple example: “You should never encourage patients to make dietary changes unless their physician told you to. This is especially true of [patients with] Type 1 Diabetes. I frequently work with people with T1 who are furious because a nurse told them they could get off insulin if they'd change their eating habits. Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune condition that has nothing to do with patients' eating styles prior to diagnosis.”

2. Not asking for help when you need it

Some nurses may think that reaching out and asking for help from a nursing supervisor or other colleague is a sign of weakness and means you don't know as much as you should. 

Asking for advice from other nurses builds teamwork and helps you do what's best for your patients. 

“Don't be afraid of being considered incompetent because you're unsure of something,” Reilly says. “Have the strength to ask for help so you can broaden your scope of knowledge.”

3. Neglecting to double check

It's easy to fall into the pattern of assuming things without double checking first. In fact, one of the most common medical errors in nursing is neglecting to double check. 

Some of the most common medical errors in nursing happen with charting and documentation processes. 

If you're not sure about a dosage amount, patient condition or previous nursing action, ask someone first.

4. Rushing through tasks

Nurses are often short on time, but when you're in a hurry, that's when mistakes are made. Joyce Mikal-Flynn, Ed.D, RN, FSP, MSN, reminds rookie nurses to take a breath, stop and think before acting. 

“Follow the processes and procedures learned in nursing school. This is critical...when [a nurse], especially a rookie, rushes their work, mistakes can and are made. Rushing brings forth missing information and data.”

5. Not taking care of yourself

Maintaining a good work/life balance is essential for providing top-quality patient care. Many new nurses pride themselves on working hard, and while this is a good attitude for work ethic, it's still important to maintain a healthy lifestyle

“Take time off,” says Mikal-Flynn. “It is foolish and dangerous to work multiple shifts, day after day. Don't be lured into the idea that working nonstop gives you a badge of courage. It does not. If you want longevity and joy in your job, time off is essential.”

When veteran and junior nurses alike keep in mind these common medical errors in nursing, they can help improve their day-to-day job experience and continue to provide skilled patient care.

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