To err is human; to admit it, superhuman. -Doug Larson

Mistakes. They happen, just like crap..that also happens. Working as a nurse in the veterinary industry, your mistakes (and shit) tend to have more weight than the average job, but nonetheless making a mistake in the workplace can be very frustrating and nerve wracking. I’m going to discuss some mistakes that I have made and how I went about fixing them.

First off- remember you are not a ROBOT, you are a human. Therefore you are going to make mistakes no matter what. The important thing is how you react and how you fix them. Your goal should always be to be there for the animal. Even if you think this “mistake” is going to get you in trouble, make sure you put the animal first. For instance: you gave that kidney failure cat *A/D instead of *K/D whoops. Hey, kidneys… here’s some protein, coming in hot. What happens next is what separates the good techs from the great techs. If you hide it or keep it hidden because you’re afraid of the repercussions, something worse can happen. You need to own up to your mistakes because believe it or not they teach you more than your successes. Never let pride get in the way of helping an animal. You have to be their advocate and their voice.

I’m about to unleash on you some of my biggest mistakes and how I handled them. I’m not a martyr, or here to preach that I always do the right thing, because I’m human (and one who consumes 3 cups of Starbucks a day). My goal is to share my experience so that you can learn from my mistakes, just as I have. While I have made plenty of mistakes, there are three in particular that stick out to me:

  • Mistake #1: So let’s start with a minor mistake I made early in my career – one that had minimal damage, but could have ended worse. I run about 15 4DX+ snap tests a day. One day, one of the tests that appeared completely negative for all four diseases came up positive in the computer for heartworm (a computer? glitching?). Without even looking, I posted it and confirmed it. The next day, the doctor came up to me, asking if this result was truly positive? I racked my brain and said I didn’t remember seeing any positive heartworm tests. So this one was pretty minor because if I wasn’t sure we would’ve just did another test for confirmation, but I could’ve definitely cost these owners a lot of unwanted angst and my practice some unnecessary testing and funding. Luckily I remembered and we were able to correct it.
  • Mistake #2:Apomorphine..we know it right? Good ol’ apo, making dogs puke up their owners socks, easter chocolate, rubber bands. My practice gets it compounded at 3mg/mL, and one night I had two chocolate toxicities come in… at the same time. Given the emergent nature of the two cases, I was rushing to induce emesis. In my haste, I calculated the dose at 0.3mg/mL instead of 3mg/mL. The result was that instead of giving 0.05cc, I gave 0.5cc, 10xs the dose. I realized my mistake as soon as I pushed the plunger to inject the apo IV. I immediately alerted the veterinarian of my wrong-doing and she was super understanding and had me get the Naloxone. We were able to reverse the dog, and with owner permission had the dog stay overnight for observation. The dog recovered uneventfully and was perfectly fine (definitely high) but fine.
  • Mistake #3: So the next situation, I had to unfortunately assist in the euthanasia of a family member’s dog. After the euthanasia, I was doing night treatments, which included insulin. I had a cat in hospital who was to get 2.5u of Glargine BID. I completed the rest of my night treatments while the cat ate dinner and then went to get his insulin. I grabbed the pets insulin from the fridge… or so I thought. What are the odds that I had two pets with the same name both on insulin, both bottles right in front of the fridge?! Despite the odds… that was the case that day. To make matters worse, the bottle had the rx script on it instructing to give 5u of insulin. So I drew it up and gave it. When I went to complete the pets orders in our e-chart I realized it said “give 2.5.” At that time, I double checked the bottle and realized I had given the wrong insulin. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “rookie mistake.” Yes, 5u is a lot for a cat. Yes, I should know better. But it had been a crazy night, I was not taking my time, I was full of emotion, and I am not a robot. After realizing my mistake, I alerted the veterinarian on staff and he helped me fix the situation (my veterinarians are bomb). We gave kitty A LOT of sugar and food so that he would continue to eat during the night and avoid a hypoglycemic episode. Luckily he was perfectly fine the next day, showed no signs of hypoglycemia, in fact he was actually hyperglycemic.

What I’m trying to get at here is that IT’S OKAY to make mistakes. You are going to make them no matter how hard you try not to, what is not okay is if you do not seek the proper help/action to fix your mistakes, and you need to learn from them. Trust me I now always double check everything because I remember that feeling and thinking if I ever hurt an animal and had the chance to help it would kill me. So make mistakes it’s important but don’t let them make you.

*A/D-a highly palatable and high caloric smooth and soft food made for pets by Hills who are coming out of surgery, or enduring illness. It’s a critical care based food formulated with high levels of protein, and fat.

*K/D- also made by Hills. It stands for kidney diet and is formulated for pets who are suffering from kidney disease or damage. Kidney dz is irreversible and damage to the kidneys results in muscle loss, toxin buildup. The kidneys main job is to filter toxins, and maintain electrolyte balance. K/D is formulated to allow pets to thrive without giving the kidneys too much extra work.

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