As a nurse, you know how much work it took to get your nursing license. Depending on what type of nurse you are, you may have spent eight years and tens of thousands of dollars to finish school, go through training, obtain your certification, and finally become a licensed nurse.
Yet all it takes is one bad decision, one seemingly tiny mistake, or one split-second judgment lapse to put your hard work at risk. Administering the wrong medication or taking a shortcut at work could cause you to lose your license — and your hard-earned career in nursing. Driving under the influence and other off-the-clock decisions can also impact your career. These mistakes are more common than you think, especially since most nursing schools don't teach students how to protect their careers.
In this guide, we go over a few common-sense tips and practices that can help ensure you protect your nursing license.
Whenever someone — whether a superior, patient, or colleague — asks you do something you feel might be against hospital or company policy, do not do it. For example, avoid any procedure you aren’t sure how to perform or for which instructions are out of protocol. Saying another nurse said a procedure was acceptable is an alibi that will not protect you from a malpractice suit. When in doubt, always follow official policies and procedures.
Communication is often what makes or breaks teams of health care providers, especially nurses. Breakdowns in communication in any workplace can have negative outcomes, but in health care teams, the results can be particularly impactful. When you’re dealing with life-saving medications and procedures, communicating poorly can lead to death.
Bottom line? Don’t underestimate the value of communication. If you have questions, do not be afraid to ask. According to the adage, "It's better to be safe than sorry." This includes how you conduct yourself inside and outside your workplace as well as on social media.
According to a Med City News article, Registered Nurse and Nurse Attorney Lorie Brown shares what she calls the “GIFTS system,” a set of tools health care professionals can use to protect their licenses and careers. It stands for Giving, Integrity, Focus and Follow Through, Trust, and Source.
Trust is especially important as your intuition can be the difference between saving and losing lives. Even with redundancies built into health care systems, many problems can still slip through the cracks. If something looks off about a patient when all tests indicate good health, trust yourself and take the next step necessary to protect his or her life. If you ignore the call button because the assigned nurse promised to take it, those precious seconds matter, so step in if need be.
As a nurse, you must always be on your toes if you want to protect your license. Mistakes that could cost you your career are notoriously easy to make, but fortunately, they are also easy to avoid if you trust your instincts, communicate well, and follow policies and procedures.