Monday, July 8, 2013

making mistakes in the ICU

*This is a shared post with my other blog, as being an ICU nurse affects my whole self and life*
I made an error at work yesterday, a small push of a button (that I forgot to push) and everything got all screwed up for a while. The nurse following me was very kind about it, even defending me while writing a risk report… but just knowing that managers/quality indicator people/other nurses are looking at me like I’m a dummy, it bruises my ego big-time. I freely admit that I DO care about what my co-workers and superiors think of me. When I make a mistake, even one that doesn’t hurt a patient, my stomach twists into knots and I can’t eat. I am so harsh with myself that I feel I should probably leave the ICU and go somewhere where I’ll make fewer mistakes, or at least my mistakes won’t have the potential to really hurt someone. I never hear of mistakes being made by other nurses, they never talk about them, certainly, nor does anyone mention mistakes that have been made anonymously. Making an error as a nurse translates into shame, and the shame I feel each time it happens cripples me.
I am feeling the need to really look at this aspect of myself. My extreme perfectionism, which some might argue makes me the ideal ICU nurse, also works to damage my self-esteem and lead to self-loathing when I make a human mistake. Yet, I am told time and time again, that I am NOT supposed to make mistakes at work. I am supposed to do 100 tasks in an hour, anticipating needs and thinking critically at the same time, and never press the wrong button, miss a number, or forget something. If I do, I am cornered and made to feel inadequate and unworthy of working in the ICU. The environment is a pressure cooker, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that in the mornings right before my shift, I am terrified that I will do something wrong or forget something important. At the end of the day, I drive home white knuckled, going over every detail of the day in my mind, looking for an error. I have nightmares of doing something wrong, forgetting to chart something, not wasting a narcotic, etc etc.
It’s not as intense at home, but it happens here, too. I see a diaper rash or a bit of cradle cap on the baby, and I immediately feel like a failure as a parent, and worry that she will be taken from me for it. I berate myself for not using more cream, noticing it sooner, etc. I look critically at my house, at my body, and at my own past poor decisions in relationships. But making a mistake at work is usually the trigger for my anxiety about everything else.
I want to find ways to address this anxiety, and to accept myself as human and not perfect. I want to find peace with “doing my best”. Right now, I wonder if this is possible in the environment I work in, if the expectations there are simply too high, and if I’m the only there who feels this way.
As usual, this has begun a cascade of negative emotions for me, so now I am feeling quite low about a number of things. I am going out to float in the water for a moment, and try to give my ball anxiety to the waves. Hopefully I will return with a sense of peace and contentment with things as they are, the world as it is, my self as I am.

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