The times I made mistakes as a doctor.

in StemSocial11 months ago (edited)

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I've gone through two departments in Medicine and Surgery and 3 times I did things that were ignorant and someone could have paid...in fact one was deadly and in one case someone died.

Yes, I said it...a patient died not because of my mistake but I didn't report a mistake and that was the issue. But let's go through them in sequential order.

The first time

I was in Pediatric surgery and for the purpose of this story (not for an excuse), I was very very tired and had a long day of work.

We had 12 new patients...we did 3 surgeries that day and I struggled to give Afternoon medication and when evening came I was assisting a surgery that lasted from the evening till around 3 am.

After the surgery, I went to the wards to give evening drugs by 3 am. I was tired but I managed to scale through probably finished around 4 am

I went to my room and slept for 3 hours, brushed my teeth, and tried to stabilize my drug routine by giving the drugs by 6 am.

Some of the patients' lines had formed tissues blocking them so we had to set new ones.

When I was done, I was feeling really competent and a patient's mom asked me to help give drugs to her child.

I had been friendly with the mother so she needed help, I thought nothing of helping her and that's when I messed things up.

The patient was a multiple trauma patients being managed by many units.

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She was just getting better and responding to treatments when I stepped in and mistook a Diazepam bottle with Paracetamol. They didn't have the labeling like the one you see in that picture. There was no write up just a blank bottle.

She was probably on that drug because of the seizures she had been having a while back.

After I gave the drug She started hallucinating and saying incoherent things to her mother. Her mother cried out for the attention of any personnel.

When the nurse showed me the patient I had given paracetamol to, I felt like pulling my hair out.

I immediately asked for help from a senior and he came and started running Normal saline. She slept off and later she started feeling better.

I left work early that day and I refused to give drugs that day...I chose to rest cause I needed it.

Days later, my body shut down and I fell sick for weeks.

The second time

I had been giving chemotherapy to a patient and everything had been going well. I handed over the process to the next House officer and told him to give the antiemetic medication (To prevent vomiting) after 8 hours of the last one.

When I came in the morning the patient's father raised some concerns about the drug Ondansetron that was given over the night.

He described the amount the child got 1 and half a bottle and the child was to get two-third of a bottle. I understood why that mistake was made.

The bottle reads 2 mg of Ondansetron in every ml and it is a 4 ml bottle. So for someone who had not read the bottle properly like the other House officer, a mistake could be easily made.

The child had been vomiting and the father was bothered that the drug might be the cause of the vomiting. I was sure the vomiting was not caused by Ondansetron overdose but the temperature of the child was something I could not be so sure of.

I check quickly and found that the drug only causes blurry vision.

By the next morning, the child had died and the father was pointing fingers at both of us. I was included because I covered up the other House officer's faults.

It felt terrible to have someone die after that mistake.

I couldn't blame the father for not wanting to see my face and he was right, a senior should have known about it and I was responsible. I should have reported the situation to a person of higher authority and not been quiet about it.

The last time

This was about 2 weeks ago and I was aware I would be writing this post when it happened and I didn't want to have an extra story to tell people.

What happened was I was being super busy that day because of the massive flood of patients we were receiving. It was 5 new patients that evening all of them required urgent attention and all of them we had admitted earlier were either dying or screaming out for help.

A patient had been convulsing for some minutes and I felt it would be right to stop the seizures. I instructed the nurse to give Intramuscular Paraldehyde and she was being slow about it. I understood she had a lot of work on her hands so I went and gave it through the intravenous route.

That was when the patient began to gasp for air. The patient was already on intranasal oxygen and one of the side effects of paraldehyde is poor oxygenation.

I reported it to my senior immediately and she took me outside the emergency and whispered "You don't give Paraldehyde IV or at least without dissolving it first".

She told me I should do nothing, the patient will be fine. I couldn't help but check all the side effects of the drug all through my doing nothing and patients needed me at that time.

Conclusion

I don't know what the conclusion is. I think doctors can make mistakes cause we are human.

If we want better health care then as a country we need to employ more labor.

As a doctor, you need to confirm everything twice or three times even cause someone could die from your mistakes.

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I am on the same page as @gentleshaid and @enforcer48. I am somewhat speechless and do not know what to write...

It is true that mistakes happen (we are humans after all, as you wrote). They however should always be reported (as most of them can be fixed). Similarly, responsibilities have to be taken. The latter is often hard, people preferring hiding than facing the consequences of their acts. This is at least something I have noticed here in France, also beyond healthcare.

PS: The fact that the medical personal is exhausted (especially after these two years of pandemic) is additionally not helping.

 11 months ago 

At least, you are learning from that.

There are so many things that could go wrong in patient care. From the floor to the lab and everything in between. I can empathize your frustration and that feeling of guilt as I've had experiences like that in the lab.

Understanding where things could go wrong, even with competent staff, was one of the reasons I was very worried when my kid was in NICU years back. I was literally running every possible scenario in my mind.

At least, you are learning from that.

I have to...or else more people will suffer

There are so many things that could go wrong in patient care. From the floor to the lab and everything in between. I can empathize your frustration and that feeling of guilt as I've had experiences like that in the lab.

So true...I was just telling @gentleshaid about the case of blood transfusion going wrong.

Understanding where things could go wrong, even with competent staff, was one of the reasons I was very worried when my kid was in NICU years back. I was literally running every possible scenario in my mind.

I can't imagine what that must be like. I once took took care of a consultant radiologist son here in Pediatrics. It was a case of complicated malaria. He was like a house officer for his own son. Doing everything he could to make sure the best outcome would be realised.

Don't know how to describe my feelings reading this, perhaps because my son is currently on admission in a government teaching hospital. I know a couple of people that are victims of mistakes from medical doctors. The most recent one was the transfusion of wrong blood. You all know what the end would be.

Also remember one that was given a wrong IV drip. All the drip has gone in before the mistake was discovered and nothing could be done. The patient knew she was dying and did a few hours after.

Mistakes are normal, but not when lives are involved. The situation of the Nigerian health sector is a very sad one.

Don't know how to describe my feelings reading this, perhaps because my son is currently on admission in a government teaching hospital.

I reall hope he gets better and its nothing too serious. Teaching hospital usually have the best consultants in the state watching over cases but these days there is a scarcity for doctors and the government is not employing enough cause they can't afford them.

The most recent one was the transfusion of wrong blood. You all know what the end would be.

For transfusion problems the blame can go round to everybody from the Lab attendant who didnt label the blood properly or the one who didn't do the grouping and cross matching properly or the doctor who was careless enough to give the wrong blood to the wrong patient.

Mistakes are normal, but not when lives are involved.

Yeah....they become very costly and someone could die.

Wow! Just saw this from WhatsApp. I've always known a doctor's job is hard. But I believe in them, when I had a surgery on my hand, I was really scared it could get worse if it went sideways but with faith it all went well.

Your mistakes are in the past, we just hope we don't make more costly ones. Great post! !PIZZA

Thanks for the encouraging words bro. I'm currently taking a 3-day sick leave to rest a bit.

Thanks for stopping by

People make mistakes. It takes a lot to admit yours. Some doctors won't recognize an error let alone admit to an error.

People make mistakes. It takes a lot to admit yours. Some doctors won't recognize an error let alone admit to an error.

Very very true.

I think a good conclusion is that those involved in the medical industry are in a thankless position many times. No one is immune from fatigue. It's also my opinion that employing more labor won't take care of the problems involved with mismanagement. It will only exacerbate the problem.

I think a good conclusion is that those involved in the medical industry are in a thankless position many times.

Very true

No one is immune from fatigue. It's also my opinion that employing more labor won't take care of the problems involved with mismanagement. It will only exacerbate the problem.

Well less fatigue could lead to less mistakes dont you think. I mean if more doctors could be involved we would have more people to clarify from in most instances.

Some newer house officers clarify from me and its for the littlest of things you can imagine.

 11 months ago 

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Reminds me of this scene from Scrubs:

Which I think is impossible to watch without crying, so I'm not gonna rewatch it!

But yeah this is the unfathomable curse put on the path of life one chooses as a medical doctor. I doubt I could bear the risks myself

Mehn....that got to me...especially

The second you start blaming yourself for other people's deaths...there is no going back.

I've wanted to re-watch scrubs because I was a kid watching it back when I started and I never finished it.

Where can I stream episodes from?

I'm sure you can find some slow-ass website that might not be secure... like this one - https://watchseriesstream.com/watch-tv/watch-scrubs-full-online-39375.4894708

But I tend to prefer to torrent, more reliable high quality experience. Enjoy! I don't think it all aged so well, joke-wise XD

I'll try it out still...

Old series are like that. House MD by the way aged just fine.

I recognized that song immediately.. The soundtrack..
The second you start blaming your self for ppls deaths.. There is no coming back.. That's some strong one.. Relates so much to my comment down below.

I should probably see scrubs.

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Yooooo
Reminds me of when I was in GI medicine. Apparently it was a time bomb and all we did was give parliative care. She had chronic hepatitis and I was so touched to try give my best, there was an industrial action then and in UCH when nurses go on strike the house officer does all their work. Assisted by the patient relatives.. Speak of a poor health conscious nations.
I spent 4 days in the hospital straight during that strike and I got sick myself .. Trying to ensure she doesn't pass..

When she eventually did, I felt sad, trying to search if I did anything wrong.. I didnt find anything.., what comforted me strangely were the words of a senior colleague. He said "cheer up Doc, you didnt kill her, the disease did". You did your best.

I couldn't hold the tears but I know I did what I could. I should share the story sometime.

Doctors do make mistakes, but they can be generally avoided.