If you practice as a nurse long enough, you realize you can not be perfect. You are going to make mistakes. When you do, it is important to know what to do.

1. Own up to it.

As soon as you realize your error, take responsibility for it. Trying to cover up for your mistake could harm the patient. It could also hurt your reputation for honesty and extremely cost you your job. Early in my career I have given the wrong medicine to a patient. The pill was intended for his roommate. They were both new admissions that day. I was so hurried I missed the critical step of checking each patient's name bracelet before giving the medication.

2. Take corrective action.

I medicated the patient who was in pain with the medication intended for him in the first place. Then I called the physician of the patient who received the medication not prescribed for him. I watched this patient carefully for any adverse reactions. Thankfully, he did not develop any problems with the medication I mistakenly cave him.

3. Learn from it.

The five rules of giving medications: right drug, right dose, right time, right route, right patient, is drilled into every nurse who administers medications. I had given thousands of pills before and seldom made a mistake. I felt stupid and foolish. I let my need for speed affect my judgment. I learned that skipping steps and getting away from good practice to save time was not worth the consequences. I slowed down.

No matter how careful we are, nurses make mistakes. Admitting what we did wrong and taking actions to rectify it are the first steps toward righting the wrong. We must learn from each error to keep from making similar mistakes in the future. Most importantly, we need to forgive ourselves and move on. Like the baseball player who gets hit by a pitched ball and has to get back into the batting box, nurses must shake off our errors and go back to doing what we do well: Giving the highest quality of care to our patients.