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Amazing you!

By: Leah Curtin, RN, ScD(h), FAAN

Celebrate yourself…you deserve it!

By Leah Curtin, RN, ScD(h), FAAN

Things are so different today. I remember being thoroughly and soundly spanked for an infraction that, as it happens, I didn’t commit. My mother’s response when she discovered that I was innocent? She merely said, “That spanking is for all the bad things you’ve done that I never found out about.” If it sounds familiar, join the ranks. And if someone complimented you, the proper thing to do was to blush and say, “It was nothing.” Celebrating yourself wasn’t right; you had to wait and hope that others would notice.

No credit for miracles

amazingAs a nurse, it was much the same back in the day. And again, the culture reinforced it. If you did something right, innovative, or perhaps heroic, it was expected behavior. No compliments—just keep your head down and keep on working. But if you made a mistake, it was terrible, almost unforgiveable.

As a senior student, I was put in charge of a 50-bed acute care unit when the head nurse became ill and the charge nurse was called home because her house caught fire. The rest of the “staff” consisted of students younger than I and nurse aides. So, I was in charge. I had to give all the medications and do all the dressings and treatments. In those days, in addition to ensuring all of the staff fulfilled their assignments, charge nurses accompanied physicians as they made rounds, saw to it that all medication orders were sent to the pharmacy, signed off on all charts, and made rounds on all patients.

I made a medication error. As soon as I discovered it, I notified the house supervisor and the patients’ physicians. Tests were ordered and the patients were fine. But I had, nonetheless, made an error. I was called before the nursing council and chastised. It was a miracle that the patients were unharmed—and nursing students get no credit for miracles!

Numbers speak for themselves

According to the American Hospital Association, more than 35 million patients are admitted to hospitals each year. Add to that more than 141 million emergency visits and multiply it by all the medications, treatments, and procedures performed, and you’ll see that darn few errors are made. This is not to defend errors, but to celebrate your astonishing competence.

By combining the findings of four studies and extrapolating across 34 million hospitalizations in 2007, James concluded that preventable errors contribute to the deaths of 210,000 hospital patients annually…a tragedy to be sure. But if these statistics are correct, the serious error percentage is about 0.0011. In other words, nurses and physicians give accurate care 0.9989% of the time. And that’s worth celebrating!

Celebrate yourself

Recently I had major surgery and was very ill. For 8 days I was on total parenteral nutrition and all kinds of medications. I had a peripherally inserted central catheter and probably hundreds of piggy-backs and thousands of doses of this or that medication. And yet, no one made an error.Thousands of interventions on just one patient—one among many very sick patients who also received thousands of interventions—and no one made an error. That’s astonishing! You’re astounding, and I beg of you, please celebrate yourself and your fellow nurses.

Success breeds success. Celebration breeds celebration. I have this to say to each one of you: Learn to value yourself, forgive yourself, accept yourself, bless yourself, express yourself, trust yourself, empower yourself, and love yourself. Happy Nurses’ Day! I’m, so grateful to be numbered among you.

leah curtin registered nurse faan




Leah Curtin, RN, ScD(h), FAAN

Executive Editor, Professional Outreach

American Nurse Today

Selected reference

James JT. A new, evidence-based estimate of patient harms associated with hospital care. J Patient Saf. 2013;9(3):122-8.

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