The 5 Most Common Mistakes Made By New Nurses

NurseJournal Staff
Updated April 27, 2022
    Achieving perfection is practically essential in a medical occupation, because medical professionals are dealing with the most precious and delicate commodity of all, which is life. And this includes the nursing profession. Even so, when you're starting off in your...
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    Achieving perfection is practically essential in a medical occupation, because medical professionals are dealing with the most precious and delicate commodity of all, which is life. And this includes the nursing profession.

    Even so, when you’re starting off in your new job as a nurse, you will likely feel nervous, you’re still getting used to the environment, and you might be rushed for time. These can lead you to make a couple of mistakes. Nurses, no matter how logical they may be, and how prepared they are to do the best possible job, are still human beings who are capable of committing errors. More often than not, mistakes become more common during extended shift hours, heavier workloads and the simple matter of inexperience. Fortunately, it is possible to minimize your chances of making an error if you take the time to make yourself aware of the most common mistakes that are made by new nurses, and how to avoid them.

    #1 Errors with Medication

    Handing out the wrong medication to a patient, dispensing an incorrect dosage of medication, or giving a prescription to the wrong patient are some of the errors in this category that might even prove to be fatal to your patients. No one avoids this issue. Whether you’re a brand new nurse or a veteran that’s been on the staff for years, anyone can commit a mistake with medication. For new nurses, the most common cause of errors with medication is a lack of ‘presence of mind’, as well as nerves and pressure. Studies have shown that administration errors can account for anywhere up to 32% of medication errors. The best way to ensure that you avoid medication errors, is to leave your personal life behind at the door to the hospital, and focus entirely on your patient. Some tips include:
    • Using patient-specific identifiers to ensure the patient is the right person to receive a particular kind of medication
    • Verifying any reactions or allergies with the patient before administering medication
    • Highlighting any conditions or critical diagnosis before administering medication
    • Ensuring that the list of medication the patient is on is consistently updated
    • Ensuring weight and height measurements are accurate

    #2 Infection issues

    Infection has long been acknowledged as a common problem within hospitals. As a nurse, you will have the opportunity to minimize the risk for infections acquired within a hospital by utilizing the skills that you have learned from your training. It is your responsibility to facilitate patient recovery while also minimizing any complications that could lead to future infection. According to the CDC, hospital infections account for 99,000 deaths in American hospitals alone, each year. The best way to avoid infection issues is to make sure that you and your colleagues never underestimate the importance of good hygiene techniques. Remember that iatrogenic infections can result through negligence by medical personnel. Make sure to keep in mind the following:
    •  Standard precautions
    • Aseptic techniques
    • Cleaning and disinfection
    • Strategies for infection prevention
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    #3 Charting or Documentation Errors

    Usually, when someone is training to become a nurse, the last thing they think about is all the paperwork they are going to have to complete during their career. Recording the essential information relating to your patient within a chart is an important part of your job as a nurse, but there are many mistakes that can be made during this process. Making yourself more aware of the pitfalls that come with documentation can help you to avoid errors, as well as making you less liable for lawsuits in the future. Here are some of the things you should consider when charting for a patient:
    • Record health and drug information
    • Record medications that have been given
    • Record any discontinued medications
    • Record nursing actions
    • Record changes in the patient’s condition
    • Record any orders given regarding the patient’s care
    When you’re not sure, ask someone who may be more experienced than you for help.

    #4 Calling for Help Without the Right Information on Hand

    Although this mistake may not be threatening to your patient’s life, it certainly poses some danger to your career if you do it too often. Something that you learn early on within hospitals, is that you should never call for the assistance of a physician without already having all of the patient’s relevant information ready. You need to be primed with the information so that you can get assistance quickly and effectively, otherwise you risk making yourself look like an amateur in front of other nurses, doctors, and your patient.

    #5 Falling Accidents Involving Patients

    Patients can fall accidentally when they attempt to get out of bed and move around on their own after a procedure, or when they are still weak. Usually, patients feel uncomfortable about asking a nurse for help if they simply want to go to the bathroom or pick something up that’s out of reach, and these accidents generally occur when there is no one around to help, or attend to the individual’s needs. The trouble with even the slightest fall is that they can lead to serious injury and legal problems for the hospital, and new nurses may forget just how serious a fall can be. The best way to avoid falls is to make sure you constantly check up on your patients, especially those whom you think may be at a higher risk than others. Whether it’s during the day, or at night, make sure that everything essential to the patient in your care is within reach, so they do not have to get up. Furthermore, make sure your patient knows that you are there to help, should they need assistance. Try to be as welcoming as possible when you tell them this, as the more comfortable they feel around you, the more likely they are to call on you, instead of putting themselves in danger.