“I’m sorry, but I have to write you up.”
As a nurse, hearing those words for the first time and receiving that first written form of discipline can feel unnerving. The moment your manager asks to see you in their office suddenly brings you back to the high school principal’s office all over again. Except this time, you’re not in trouble for passing a note in class. Instead, you’ve been informed you’ve made an error that may or may not have put a patient’s safety at risk, and your stomach drops all over again.
I know it’s easier said than done, but try not to panic here! If there’s been a report made or a patient complaint, it is your manager’s duty to speak with you. What is your side of the story? Your manager will gather as much detail as he or she can from all parties involved. For something like a patient complaint, there may be a resolution right then and there. If it is a write-up regarding a medication error or a skill that needs improving, your manager may speak with you about educational processes that may help you work to improve in those areas. Do your best to cooperate and complete the educational material as requested. Try not to view it to shame or criticize you but rather to identify how, where, or why the error occurred and how to best prevent that error from occurring again. Remember, the goal is always to ensure we give safe and quality healthcare to our patients.
You might be wondering how this process is applied when you’re a travel nurse. It might sound as though it would be more complicated since you are employed through a staffing company, however this process essentially works out the same way, though there may be some differences. Your manager will likely notify your agency of the disciplinary action/write up as a courtesy to keep them informed. Depending on the situation, the facility may seek the agency’s involvement to determine the best path towards a resolution. In this case, you might not hear from your manager at the facility, but rather from a representative of your agency, whether that be your recruiter, ADON/DON, etc. You might even find yourself on a conference call with the facility and your agency. This again, is generally no cause for alarm, but merely provides the space for all parties to be present to discuss the issue. Each facility is going to have its own way to handle this situation. Your agency may document these according to their own policies. If you have any questions regarding those policies, always ask your recruiter.
Caring for patients is a great privilege. Nursing requires you to be compassionate, knowledgeable, and able to adopt new skills and practices all while keeping up with the ever-changing world of healthcare and its technology. Being a travel nurse, working in various new facilities frequently, it is understandable that, at times, following a facility specific policy or procedure an error can happen. Be sure to question any high-risk process and understand what their expectations are. If an error is made, make sure it’s reported and documented according to policy. It is always better to discover a mishap and report it yourself vs someone finding it later.
Now, I know I’ve told you not to panic over being written up, and I really do mean that. Being written up is not something you have to freak out over, however it is something you should take seriously. Acting too casual or blowing the situation off may give the impression you aren’t concerned with making patient safety the priority. At times your reactions can play a bigger role in what happens next. Attentiveness, cooperation, and respect demonstrate your professionalism. As I said before– the goal is to ensure we give safe and quality healthcare to our patients. Learning from a mishap helps us strive for better care next time!
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