The Five Most Common Nursing Errors
February 3, 2014
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When a new nurse steps onto the unit for the first time, it's all too easy to make simple nursing errors that can affect both patient care and the nurse's future. Here are the five most common mistakes that new grads make.
1. Body Mechanics
Believe it or not, eager new nurses can hurt themselves trying to give a 400-pound man a bed bath. There is a right way — and many wrong ways — to perform each transfer, and some of those can be career-shortening moves. New nurses are especially susceptible to these kinds of injuries because they may feel flustered, are trying to hurry to one of the other dozens of tasks they must perform, or believe they are invulnerable to injury. Lift with your legs — never your back — and don't hesitate to get a friend to help you. Raise everything you can to a working height for you and use the available tools, like gait belts, transfer boards and lift equipment. It does take extra time, but an injured back can prematurely end a promising nursing career.
2. Medication Errors
There are five "rights" of medication administration that unofficially govern the act of passing meds. Each time a nurse gives medication to a patient, she must ensure that it is:
- the right medication
- the right patient
- the right dose
- the right time
- the right route
New nurses will inevitably make errors on one of these through inexperience, which could be potentially disastrous for patients. To avoid such errors, new nurses should get to know the drugs they are giving, become familiar with the proper dosing and always check everything — and then double- and triple-check everything — before administering medication to the patient.
In the healthcare industry, if it wasn't written down, it never happened. Clear and complete documentation takes practice and time before it becomes automatic, so a new nurse is especially susceptible to these mistakes. Different facilities will each have their own policies about how to chart, so be sure to study these policies and make them second nature.
4. Prioritizing and Delegating
Prioritizing tasks is a learned skill that must be practiced and developed through experience. The ABCs — airway, breathing and circulation — always take precedence. No nurse is an island, and often support staff like nursing assistants are available to help a nurse with some tasks like taking vitals and measuring input and output. If a nurse does not delegate properly, assistants could become overwhelmed and unable to perform their tasks adequately.
5. Seeking Help and Support
The adjustment from student nurse to registered nurse can be a stressful one. Having a support system of nurses can help this transition. This support system should include mentors, sympathetic managers and other new nurses. Try to remember that every working nurse was once in your shoes, and they made this transition successfully.
Remember, nursing errors are the exception, not the rule. With careful preparation, education and support, a new nurse can learn the ropes without any major mistakes.
Photo credit: MorgueFile.