By Patricia Chaballa, RN, CCRN
Every nurse I know can recite, in detail, the first mistake they ever made. The fact is, we all make mistakes. Some are inconsequential — some can bring you to your knees. And although I cannot promise you’ll make no mistakes after you start your career, I can offer some pearls of wisdom from 33 years of experience that might help reduce the number of errors you make as well as help you become the best nurse you can be.
Do what you can do when you can do it. No matter where you are working, all patients are dynamic human beings and can be unpredictable. Be prepared for anything. Never rest thinking you have all shift to complete a task. Things change, and you will be far better off having your ducks in a row if an unexpected situation occurs.
Double check everything
Cross every “t” and dot every “i.” Never question whether checking and double checking is the way to go. I used to watch more experienced nurses take shortcuts. The first time I tried one, I nearly put a patient in danger by not double checking pain medication orders. The patient was fine, but I will never forget that experience, and situations I have witnessed over the years with other nurses have proven to me that following policy and taking safety steps is always worth your time.
Do not feel “less than” as a nurse because you may take longer to complete procedures and tasks compared with another nurse. As long as you are caring for your patients safely, then you are the “more than” in your patients’ and their families’ eyes. Patients are far more astute than years ago and thankfully, due to excellent patient education, they are more aware if you are using good hand hygiene and taking the time for minimum patient identifiers, among other tasks.
It’s about the patient
One of the best interview questions I have ever been asked was, “At the end of your shift, how do you know you have done a good job?” All sorts of questions swirled through my mind. Did I give all the medications on time? Did I complete all safety checks? Did I complete all the mandated charting?
Then it hit me. The reason we become nurses is to answer yes to the following questions: Were my patients comfortable? Were their families comfortable with what I did for their loved ones? Were their questions answered in a satisfactory manner? For me, my patients receive the best possible care when I can answer yes to those questions.
Patricia Chaballa, RN, CCRN, has worked in PICU and floated to pediatric med/surg since 1997 at Kaiser Hospital in Roseville, Calif. She is a PALS instructor.