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So you made a mistake. What next, nurse?

Own it! In nursing, it's important to take ownership of so many things, from your hard-won expertise to your preference for zany prints on your scrubs. But when you make a mistake, it's crucial to own that, too — and just as important to correct it, learn from it, and move on.

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The stakes are high when you make a mistake in nursing, but that doesn't change one reality: "It happens," says veteran nurse Lois Millsap, a certified wound, ostomy and continence nurse at an Emory Hospital outpatient clinic. And when your mistake does happen (not "if" it does), there are ways to use the experience to improve. As Millsap says, "If it's not used to learn something, what purpose does it serve?"

Now that she's been in nursing for decades, it's very rare for her to make a mistake at work. But if she does, she addresses it using the framework she learned as a union nurse in Michigan. "I report the mistake, I try to find out what the cause was and why it happened," she says. "And then it's, 'Let's work together to correct it.'"

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This is not one of those nursing situations it's best to put out of your mind. "I don't think you ever forget a mistake, particularly depending on the consequences or how profound it was," Millsap says.

Going forward from a mistake, she says she tries "to tweak my mental checklist to assure that I'm aware of any mistakes I have made. I correct it for the foreseeable future. I don't want to do it again, but I don't dwell on it."

If you do get into replaying and overthinking, according to the Harvard Business Review, you've fallen prey to something called "rumination." That tendency to endlessly replay those times you made a mistake (often adding insomnia to the mix) is called rumination, and it's not good. "A ruminative reaction to an event often triggers memories of similar situations from the past and an unproductive focus on the gap between the real and ideal self," HBR noted. "Prompted by this one event, you begin to chastise yourself for not being more of something…organized, ambitious, smart, disciplined, or charismatic."

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Aside from making yourself miserable, such ruminating is linked to bad problem-solving skills and even increased anxiety and depression. HBR recommends combating this tendency to overthink by sitting down in a calm moment and listing the most common reasons you end up ruminating. And then distinguish between ruminating (unhelpful) and problem-solving (helpful.) "Ask yourself, 'What's the best choice right now, given the reality of the situation?'" HBR advises. "Start by taking one step, even if it's not the most perfect or comprehensive thing you could do. This strategy is particularly relevant for perfectionists. If you're ruminating about a mistake you've made, adopt a strategy that will lessen the likelihood of it happening again."

As you progress in the nursing profession, you'll make fewer mistakes, and take those you make less personally. "As a more experienced nurse, I don't leave the room without locking the bed or checking the guardrail or doing those things the hospital has made an effort to put on the checklist," Millsap notes. "When you're new, there's a lot of stimuli in the environment that you're just not familiar with. You have to do so many things at one time that you get distracted, particularly a new nurse. You get pulled away constantly. It's a matter of learning how to concentrate in the middle of mayhem."

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And while HBR is advising the general working public, Gloria Giordano King, MSN, RN, manager of nursing programs at Piedmont Fayette, confirms the wisdom of the HBR approach to avoiding excessive ruminating. "It's a hard thing for nurses to learn that the hospital functions 24/7 and the work is never done," she says. "Leaving the day behind and being able to say at the end of your shift 'I gave my all and did the best I could have' is key to a nurse's survival."

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