Recently, I worked with a nurse who made a med error. In the scheme of things it was minor. Yet, it did not feel minor when it occurred. She quickly realized she had made an error. She immediately checked and noted that there were few negative effects that would occur, and there was a moment of relief. Almost as quickly, the beginning of negative self-talk and questions about her identity arose for her.
No one likes to make mistakes. Medication errors can be serious. Beyond the incident report and being transparent with those effected, what do you do when an error occurs?
The nurse above was so upset about the error because it did not align with her sense of self. She thought of herself as thorough, careful and attentive and here it was she made this error. This disrupted how she saw herself, her sense of identity, and it was profoundly disturbing for a time.
I’ve been reading Difficult Conversations and there is a chapter devoted to identity. Sometimes comments in conversations threaten our identity. Sometimes our own behavior threatens our identity and makes us face ourselves in new ways. The authors point out three core identity questions that often underlie difficult conversations.
- Am I competent?
- Am I a good person?
- Am I worthy of love?
The first question related to competence was the most important. It is funny and sad how the other two got tangled in to lesser degrees. A good person is trustworthy, a mistake like this “hmmm, am I trustworthy?” Regarding the question of love, it was more an issue of “Am I worthy of respect?”
Wow, a lot was going on from one medication error. What helped her get through it?
Self-compassion in the reverse order of how I usually write about it.
- Mindful Awareness – Perspective came after a respected leader encouraged her by saying “Stop beating yourself up.” Then she was able to stop exaggerating the situation.
- Common Humanity – She shared the incident with another nurse who had made her own errors in the past. This other person understood how she felt. My nurse did not feel so alone.
- Self-Kindness – With the first two components in place, she was able to tone down the harsh language and speak more kindly to herself. She also allowed herself to get a good night’s sleep after the fitful night before.
What helps you when you are confronted with a potential mistake ‘n identity?
With greater calm she was able to evaluate how the error occurred and pay more attention to detail going forward.
To connect with self-compassion and experience the benefits contact me.
Revitalize Your Life,
Dina, Well-Being Coach
If you like this post and know others who may enjoy it, please share. If you’re not yet on my list, please sign up at HeartofWellBeing.com to receive articles twice a month.
By the way, within the week the patient who had gotten the wrong antibiotic ended up being prescribed this antibiotic.