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'When something bad happens the learning benefits aren't immediately obvious'


Last week I was involved in an incident that left me physically injured and extremely shaken up.

For obvious confidentiality related reasons, I won’t go into much detail but it left me thinking that you can learn as much from the bad experiences as the good.

Of course when something bad happens in practice, the learning benefits of it aren’t immediately obvious. I was pretty shaken up and it took me a few hours to really digest what had happened.

My initial thought was, maybe I’m not cut out for this

My experience really highlighted the importance of reflective practice. I am confident that I did everything the way I was supposed to, but thinking about how the experience affected me was also an important part of reflecting.

My initial thought was “maybe I’m not cut out for this job after all because I can’t cope when things like this happen.” But when I sat down and thought about it, I realised that my reaction was proportionate with what happened. Anybody would be worried after a bad experience at work, but the most important thing is that I can think about what happened and learn from it.

Accurate record-keeping is always important, but especially when there is a incident in practice.

I found this difficult as I was feeling so stressed, but after reflecting on what happened I was able to report it appropriately. This isn’t just for the safety of staff, but for patients as well. Detailing the events of things that happened can prevent the same things from happening in future.

Finally, as well as reporting the incident, reporting your concerns is key.

There is a difference in how these are recorded. Incident forms are written from a factual perspective to record what happened. Reporting concerns is what you feel was wrong with the lead up to the events. I have blogged about this before and Nursing Times are running their Speak Out Safely Campaign about reporting concerns in practice.

After being in a particularly emotive situation it was so difficult for me to approach staff and tell them my concerns about what had happened, but I knew that it was important.

Of course I hope that I have as few bad experiences in practice as possible, but I also see the value in them and in how they can improve my practice in the future. Has anybody else experienced similar events they felt they have grown from?

Natalie Moore is the mental health branch student nurse editor for Student Nursing Times.


Readers' comments (9)

  • michael stone

    Hi Natalie.

    It is a pretty general rule, that you only learn from 'bad events' - you expand your learing, by thinking about why things went wrong.

    Nobody ever investigated a flawless landing, did they ? It is the plane that ends up in pieces and on fire, that people try to learn from !

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  • michael stone

    learning - grrr !

    My typing doesn't improve !

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  • That is a good point & I think you are right. I must always have learnt when things went wrong without consciously realising in, but this seemed like a pivotal moment for me

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  • Natalie Moore
    Don't let it worry you too much, we all make mistakes, its why pencils have erasers!
    However, we as nurses often over-castigate ourselves for what may be quite minor mistakes and infractions, making mountains out of molehills, to mix my metaphors ( 3 in 2 paragraphs!)
    I hope you get better and get closure about your incident, and don't let the bastards grind you down!

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  • 4!

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  • michael stone

    Natalie Moore | 11-May-2013 10:40 pm

    redpaddys12 | 12-May-2013 3:38 am

    I'm not for a minute implying that all 'bad events' involve personal blame - some do, but often something like 'a flawed system' is the problem. And you will not be able to draw any useful conclusions, from everything that goes wrong. But quite often, it turns out to have been very useful to ponder 'why did that happen ?'.

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  • experiential learning - whether the experience is positive or negative!

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  • I think the bad experiences affect me more. I observed a few incidences in my last placement (not serious), and I feel like its helped me to set my standards of care. To try to be aware of those tiny omissions, and what they mean to the individual patients and their experience of care.

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  • George Kuchanny

    Very long time ago I had a 'near miss' happen to me. An infusion of drugs was dripped in at double the rate it should have been which might have resulted in some severe damage.

    The nurse had made a mistake with the arithmetic. What she did was report it to a senior nurse who kept me in on obs for a while. No harm, my BP and temp went up but then settled again.

    The nurse who made the mistake wrote up the near miss in my notes.

    Many times this sort of mistake has happened followed by the person making the mistake not documenting it but simply blagging their way past the error. If I was a frail patient nobody following on with care would have a clue why I was ill and then probably make things worse.

    When a mistake is made it really should be documented - even a few words in the notes will do. Then people taking over care will not make matters worse for a start.

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