I, like many of my fellow RNs, have been appalled at the treatment the nurses with Ebola have been getting online and in the press. Nursing is hard. Nursing is scary. Nursing is sad. Nursing is stressful. Nursing can kill you and not just from Ebola. There are lots of dangers to nurses from the smallest bacteria up to corrupt corporations or governments. Even the patients that we are caring for sometimes kill us. These nurses have had their reputations trashed and blamed for contracting this terrifying disease. In support and solidarity with my fellow RNs I am sharing my top 5 nursing errors.
1. The first year I was a nurse there was a huge outbreak of Rotavirus in my community. Nursing homes were shutting down in quarantines and the med/surg floor was overflowing with vomit and diarrhea. Everyone was on contact precautions so I should have been safe, right? NOPE. I got rotavirus two times that winter. All the nurses were taking turns being sick at home and sick at work. As careful as I was I couldn’t help catching the nasty bug.
2. I was inducing a woman’s labor and I had started her oxytocin at 0800. Two hours later she wasn’t having any contractions. I had increased the drip every 20 minutes. When I got her up to use the restroom I saw the problem. The IV tube had never been connected to the patient and there was a puddle of oxytocin on the side of the bed. I was so embarrassed to tell the patient and the doctor I had wasted two hours and we were just now starting.
3. I was asked to be the labor nurse by a patient that I knew. Her delivery was beautiful and I was honored that she had asked me to be her nurse. I was watching her husband cut the cord and smiling like a goober. Cord blood squirted right into my eye. I had to leave the delivery and wash out my eye. We both had to be tested for bloodborne pathogens and thankfully were negative. I felt terrible and wished that I had just held the blanket up higher or looked away or wore my stupid glasses.
4. One time I was trying to start an IV on a patient that was admitted for preterm labor. I didn’t hit the vein on the first stick which is bad enough. I forgot to hit the retractor button on the needle and poked the woman in the abdomen with it when I reached across her for a bandage. It barely scratched her belly, but I was devastated that I had hurt that poor mama.
5. If there is one smell nurses loathe it is the odor of a GI bleed. I was taking care of a patient with this condition and became overwhelmed by the aroma. I stepped into his bathroom and puked into the trash can. I returned to his bedside, after cleaning up the mess in the bathroom, looking pale and remorseful. That man broke my heart when he asked if I had been sick and then apologized for his smell.
We all make mistakes. No one regrets those mistakes more that the nurse whom made them. I don’t know if these ladies made mistakes that allowed them to get Ebola. I can’t imagine that they would take the situation lightly. I assume that they would take every precaution that was afforded them, just as I would have. Sometimes no matter how careful you are, it is not enough. While so many people are criticizing these ladies, I will be joining those that are praying for their full recovery. I also pray that I don’t ever have to live a day in their scrubs.