Medical Errors


I’ve been working in the ICU for the seven days. And 8 days ago, I was actually looking forward to it, which should give you an idea of how bad things were getting downstairs. Like the ED, the ICU has been slammed. The flu has just simply been gumming up the whole hospital, from top to bottom. And unfortunately, it’s led to me witnessing my first medical error. The scary thing is it was not just one, but four, that I can think of, in this past week alone. Going from zero, to four in one week, is kinda worrisome and sobering. One of these errors was directly my fault as well, thankfully to no adverse outcome.  I did beat myself up a bit over it,  but I’m also pleased with myself in that when I learned of the error, I did the right thing, I alerted the team, my attending, completed an incident report, and even called the patients family to tell them of the error, despite there being no real way they would ever find out about it. That was the hardest part, talking to the family.

At least one of the other errors, unfortunately, may have had much more dire consequences. Nobody was particularly to blame, it was a problem with the systems being overwhelmed rather than negligence, but regardless, it’s still hard to not feel somewhat responsible. When the family asks “What happened, how did we get here?” What are you supposed to say? Thankfully, when they did ask me that, in the middle of the night, I had no idea, at that time, of what had happened, so I wasn’t forced to have to decide to tell the whole truth or just part of it. (not that I would keep it from them, but in such a grave error, I’m sure they would rather have heard about it from an attending, not a resident).

Anyways, I think the flu bug is starting to move on and away, thankfully. I know I am still new to medicine, but this was bad. You don’t need years of experience to know that it’s not supposed to be this way, to read the weary expressions on everyone’s face, to hear the anger in the voices of patients being forced to wait hour after hour, to have that aching tiredness from working hard all day and not really sure if you made actually dent in the problem.  It was hard, but as they say, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. I hope so.

About ER Jedi

I’m a resident doctor in Emergency Medicine and I’ve learned during the past few years that 1) I’ve had some pretty amazing experiences 2) I have a very bad short-term memory. So this blog is just a place for me to write about some of these experiences, from the ER, medical school, the wards and life in general. At least that way I’ll have some idea as to where I’ve been all this time. A scrap-book of sorts, a place to vent, organize some clinical tools and post a few good songs I’ve heard along the way.

Posted on January 19, 2013, in Emergency Medicine. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Really? You’re gonna leave us hanging? What were said mistakes?

  2. The judge says I’m not allowed to talk about it…. (kidding)

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