Hi, Judgey McJudgeyPants. Let’s Talk about Second Victim Syndrome

As a nurse, my largest fear has always been a fatal medication error. Like the nurse in this article who accidently killed a baby.  And then died for it. After she was blackballed and fired.

You too?

I have known nurses who have made a fatal or near fatal medication error.  Have you? What did you do? Did you ostracize that nurse and tell them how wrong they were? Did you think that saying that would make them feel worse, as you deemed was appropriate?distraught-nurse-5361035

Of course you didn’t.  For God’s sake you comforted them, and hugged them.  You may have participated in the Root Cause Analysis.  You told them we would figure out what we could have done differently.

You did not call them names.  

So why, dear reader do you think it is ok to abuse a fellow nurse on social media who made an honest, albeit tragic mistake? A mistake they will never, ever get over.  

A mistake that has transformed the vibrant, caring, competent nurse they were into a shriveled up ball of self-doubt, grief, and humiliation.  A nurse who killed a human.  BY ACCIDENT.  

Now, there are some really awful nurses who have killed patients on purpose, like this real gem of a nurse from Italy.

However, a fatal medication error is something that requires a policy change, almost always. In this case, the hospital is changing their policy about color coding on dangerous medications.

And some nurses have decided to put on their Judgey McJudgeypants. Do you not even realize that your opinion on this subject was drilled into you in nursing school? You were instructed to blame your coworkers for mistakes. Because you were instructed to blame yourself for your mistakes. 


I have news for you, pal.  That could be you.  By this time tomorrow.

Of course we must be extremely careful and follow all policies when giving medications.  That is a given.  And then things happen.  Someone interrupts you, an emergency happens, you have to go to the bathroom.  Something.  And you take your eye off the ball for one second and it happens. And maybe you live through it, and maybe you don’t.  It will most likely depend on how the powers-that-be treat you after you kill someone’s grandmother.

How does blaming other nurses and talking about them as if they were baby-killers promote unity among healthcare professionals? Do you think you are immune? 

Think again, Nurse.

Think again.  






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Author Janie Garner

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Join the discussion 7 Comments

  • Joan Stanfill says:

    We are all human. None of us are perfect. Far from it. We learn from our mistakes and carry on. Cannot belittle anyone. Like you said, could be us tomorrow. Pray for guidance in our profession and have to have lots of compassion and understanding. And try to help our fellow nurses in everything when possible.

  • Traci Hart RNC MSN says:

    I hung the wrong tube feeding the other day……Jevity instead of Oxepa. Was criticized by off going nurse who found my error. I accepted responsibility, apologized to her & the MD, who was totally cool about it, but felt like crap the rest of the day. I know where my error was. Had 7 patients on med/surg, had too many things running through my mind & just grabbed a bottle of formula. They looked the same & had the same markings & colors. Didn’t follow my own rules of checking 3 times. But nurse blaming doesn’t fix the problem. I think sometimes those who blame forget that we are human & make mistakes. When this happens, we are hard enough on ourselves without the sanctimonious berating from our peers. Again, one more area where we need to be united & supportive. I hope this site brings us closer together & shows those few who nurse bash that we are not only human but resilient.

  • Sarah Mott says:

    I once worked with a group of nurses that spent their time looking for mistakes that other nurses made. They would then write them up and the nurse in question would be disciplined by the manager or DON. Very punitive environment and one that I did not stay in for very long!

  • Lura Zamora says:

    Reminds of the story of Ridley Barron http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20111024/MODERNPHYSICIAN/310249881
    I had the pleasure of hearing his heart wrenching story, and how he forgave.

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