Serious Mistakes Made by Inexperienced Nurses

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There’s no substitute for experience, especially in healthcare.  If current trends hold, there will be many more inexperienced nurses in the years ahead, possibly putting patients in jeopardy of serious medical errors.

The American Association of Colleges of Nurses released a fact sheet, “Nursing Shortage,” in April 2019. It offered a series of projections on the future of nurses in the United Sates.  The future it outlined was not rosy – an unprecedented rate of nursing retirements just as demand for healthcare spikes.

The fact sheet projects nearly 1 million experienced RN retirements by 2030.  In 2015 alone, the report points to 1.7 million nursing-experience-years lost due to retirements. That’s a lot of lost experienced caregiving.

In June the website of Nurse Journal posted an article that places this potential danger in concrete terms.  The article, “The 5 Most Common Mistakes Made By New Nurses” identifies the likely harm they can do to patients, and offers tips to new nurses for avoiding serious errors.

Nurse Medication Errors

The first common mistake by a new nurse is a medication error. Some estimates show medication mistakes kill up to 9,000 people in the United States every year. These potentially fatal drug errors include:

  • Wrong dose
  • Wrong patient
  • Wrong medication
  • Wrong time

To prevent inexperienced nurses from making serious mistakes with medications, the AACN recommends that the nurses:

  • Ensure patient charted weight and height are correct
  • Confirm patient allergies to a prescribed medication
  • Confirm patient is the correct person for the prescription

Hospital-acquired infections are another common and potentially deadly medical error, responsible for nearly 100,000 patient deaths annually.  The responsibility for preventing a serious HAI does not rest solely with nurses.  But they do play a major frontline role.

Preventing Hospital-Acquired Infections

The AACN article reminds new nurses the key to preventing hospital-acquired infections is not complicated.  It’s based upon good personal hygiene, such as regular handwashing.  Following proper aseptic techniques in all health care settings are also emphasized.

Bad communication between healthcare providers is a proven cause of serious medical mistakes.  This includes not only face-to-face communications but in written form as well.  New nurses, according to the AACN, must be aware of patient chart errors, recognizing that paperwork may be overwhelming to inexperienced caregivers.

To protect patients, the organization recommends that new nurses always pay careful attention to perform these steps when charting patients:

  • Recording patient’s health and drug information
  • Documenting nurses’ actions during treatment
  • Document all medications given, as well as those that have been discontinued
  • Note any change in patient care orders

According to the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, as many as 1 million hospital patients fall every year, with up to a half of them causing patient injuries.  And about one-third of patient falls are preventable. New nurses, therefore, should closely monitor hospital patients who are most likely to fall, as well as putting the things they need within easy reach.

Finally, new nurses are warned they have all relevant information on hand before calling for a doctors’ assistance, which will help avoid unnecessary delays in needed care.

Inexperienced nurses are going to make mistakes.  It should be the ultimate responsibility of hospitals and staffing administrators to ensure they are properly trained and monitored to prevent needlessly placing patients in harm’s way.

If you were seriously injured or lost a family member during hospital medical treatment, a medical malpractice lawyer can investigate on your behalf to uncover any relevant mistakes made by inexperienced – and experienced – medical professionals.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham, posted in Articles July 28, 2020

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