12.02.2017

Own it and Learn

As a nurse, I hate making mistakes.
I try not to make them, but they sneak up on you despite your best efforts.

Usually, they come when you feel like you're on top of things, like you have it all under control.

Let your guard down.
Fail to do the one thing you always do.
Fail to catch that vital bit of information at that crucial time.
Trust, when you know you shouldn't.

When I do make mistakes, I've learned that there is a professional -- and healthy -- way to cope.

1) Own it. (Admit it to team quickly and openly) Covering up a mistake, or spending time the the denial phase only makes things worse. Errors are compounded by obfuscation and willful ignorance. Admitting it to your team lets them know you made a mistake and gets them on board with helping you correct it. Moreover, it let's them know that you are aware of the error and not a incompetent idiot who can't be trusted.
2) Figure out how I can avoid repeating it. Every error is an opportunity. Figure out how you got fooled, or why you got complacent, and never let it happen again.

3) Share with peers - so they can learn from my mistakes. This is the other half of owning it publicly and will help when confessing your sins. "Man, I learned the hard way, I'll never get burned like that again."

Mistakes haunt me, they make for a long ride home and a hard time sleeping, especially when they have a negative outcome on the patient. Mistakes make me question my place in this profession and all the time I spend teaching others.

I played cornerback in high school football. Playing defensive back is tough because you will get burned for a big play eventually. The receiver knows the route, you don't. The quarterback knows it is a fake, you don't. You are at a disadvantage of knowledge. When you get burned, there's no time to get down on yourself. Pick your jock up off the turf and get back to the line, the next down is coming fast.

I learned to yearn for the next down after getting beaten by a big play. Getting it right was the only way to get the taste of getting it wrong out of my mouth.

Experience builds confidence if you learn along the way. Each experience is a piece of armor as we go into battle against the unknown. You get tougher. You get smarter, faster - you catch some little thing that you overlooked before.

The most important play is the next one - because that's an opportunity to get it right.

We can't be perfect.

But we can get better.

-30-


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