Dear Nurse Marge,
So here’s the story: I work in a LTC facility. I’m helping a patient move from her bed to her chair, and along the way, I stepped in something — I don’t know what, but the floor was slippery — and down I went, bringing the patient along with me.
When we untangled, it turns out that my patient sustained a sprained wrist (it’s a miracle she didn’t break it, she is very fragile) My NM said, after the fact, that had I just let go of the patient, she wouldn’t have fallen. I feel terrible! Yes, I should have let go of her, but I didn’t think of that, what with falling and all.
Now this is eating me up. How do I handle this situation? I’m beginning to think that nursing’s not for me.
Dear Guilt Ridden,
You’re feeling this bad for a sprained wrist? Wait until you try to move that patient and you’re standing on the foley tube and out it comes — bulb inflated! That, dear Guilt Ridden, is guilt.
Well, except for this one patient who got a very strange gleam in his eye and asked me how much he’d be charged if I could only please just do that again…that wasn’t guilt I felt as I foisted him off on a student nurse…I mean, created a learning opportunity for an up and coming professional.
Back to the point here, mistakes happen. Yes, you could have split second timing and super awareness to help you remember to let go of the patient who needed your help to remain upright — but there’s no guarantee she wouldn’t have fallen if you did let go of her. Look at it this way: if we take it as a given that she was going to fall (which is why you were helping her!) then holding on to her was exactly the right thing to do — because you could control the direction and speed of her fall! And you also provided a soft landing pad, by creatively deploying your own body! Florence Nightengale couldn’t have done it better, and you tell your NM I said that.
So dust off your dignity, straighten your spine, and get back in there! You’re not the first nurse to have this happen, and you’re not the last nurse this will happen to. It’s just another moment in the long line of nursing history, part of our proud tradition.
Let the guilt go.
At least until the next time!