Nurses are Human

JME Portraits-19

Recently, a nurse made headlines for dropping a newborn, fracturing the baby’s skull. The parents, understandably upset, claim the nurse should have known better than to hold the baby if she was sleepy. As a labor and delivery nurse, here is what I wish I could have said to that mother, what I’m sure many of us would want to say to that family:

Accidently hurting your baby is one of our biggest fears. No nurse goes to work thinking they want to hurt someone. None of us leave our house thinking “I really want to make someone suffer.” There are a million and one ways a nurse can accidently do something wrong. And every day, all day, we are very conscious of this fact and we work hard to provide the best care we possibly can…even if we’re short-staffed, even if our assignment is difficult, even if every room is full. Even though we literally have twenty things to do at any given moment with a handful of different, complicated patients, we strive to provide compassionate care in a timely manner while struggling to chart every single action we take. We know we’re going to make mistakes….our only hope is that the mistakes we make do not cause harm.

That nurse made a lot of right decisions. I’m just keeping it real—but seriously, that nurse could have made a lot of other really bad decisions. She could have dropped the baby and not told anyone. Even though she was probably frightened and distraught that she had made an honest mistake, she chose to do the right thing and immediately get the baby evaluated.

A nurse’s mistake can have many consequences. No one is asking why the nurse had the baby in the first place. I would bet any amount of money that she was trying to allow an exhausted mother to get a few minutes of uninterrupted sleep. And although I do not agree with this practice, I’m sure her intentions were pure. What people who are not nurses do not understand is that our mistakes can have massive consequences. If we make a mistake, we can be peer-reviewed, which means our actions are brought before a committee to determine our nursing fate. We could lose our nursing license, leaving us unable to work or financially support ourselves or our family. If it’s deemed we were neglectful, criminal charges could be filed against us, and we could face hefty fines or even jail time. And our actions at work and at home are all up for examination and scrutiny.

That nurse is suffering right now. I don’t say this to diminish any anguish the family must feel that their baby was hurt while in the care of a healthcare provider. But wherever that nurse is right now, I promise you that she has been suffering. As I said before, no nurse goes to work wanting to hurt someone. She has had to endure being judged by her peers, questioning whether or not her facility would support her, and knowing that she caused a family distress. This is an incident that she will never forget, an incident that will probably taint her 30-year memory of nursing.

If you would have dropped your baby while in the hospital, the nurse would also be blamed. I don’t believe healthy mothers and healthy babies should be separated while in the hospital. I don’t believe a nurse should take a baby from a mother, even at her request, so that the mother can get uninterrupted sleep. This may not be a popular opinion, but as nurses, we need to see how these mothers interact with their babies even when they’re exhausted and sleep-deprived. But this leads to another issue….even if this mother would have dropped her own baby, the nurse and hospital would still be blamed. It would have been all about rounding and if it was documented that the nurse educated the patient not to sleep with the baby in the bed or if the room was free of clutter.  As nurses, we have to be everything to everyone.

Nurse-holding-head-in-hand-in-hospital

We are all human. As I drive to work tomorrow, I will think of the patients I will meet and care for. And as I walk through the doors of my hospital, I will think the same thing I have thought every single day since I graduated from nursing school: Just don’t hurt anyone. I know I will make mistakes. I’m human. But I hope I never make a mistake that hurts or kills someone. And that is a fear that lives inside of every nurse everywhere.

Until my next delivery ❤


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Lindsay
Guest

When I heard about that story, my heart ached first for the baby, and then for the nurse. I can imagine the anguish she’s going through, and I’m sure she feels absolutely horrible. People forget that health care professionals are human, too.

Anne Dennis RN
Guest
Anne Dennis RN

A horrible nightmare for any nurse as you noted, exacerbated by ridiculous Corporate guidelines for staffing ratios, mandatory OT and a blind ideology of care based on HCAHPS scores and not actual standards of care. There is an average of a 6 year waiting list for Nursing school. How many will see what is waiting for them and bail out?

chrismer
Guest
chrismer

Over 20 years of L & D nursing in my past, and dropping a baby was always my biggest fear. It never happened, but it is always on one’s mind. Floors that have been splashed with blood, amniotic fluid or even just water used in a delivery are extra slippery. Over 20 more years of nursing in recovery – always worried abut doing a med wrong, etc. It is a human doing the job, as has been pointed out. Humans make errors. It was not uncommon to work an 8 hour day shift, go home, get called in at 2230,… Read more »

debi
Guest

**It was not uncommon to work an 8 hour day shift, go home, get called in at 2230, end up there almost all night on call and still be expected to be back for the next day’s shift. If you called in sick (occ I did if I couldn’t stay awake) it was counted against you.** these lines remind me of the incident that my room mate experienced..after having 4 nights duty,and take note it was a 12-hour duty,she was about to collapse..on the 5th day,her supposed day off,the her clinical facilitator called her on her mobile and told her… Read more »

hopingonhope
Guest

Painful for the nurse and the baby. I am sure the baby wouldn recover, but the nurse will take longer from the trauma and stress. But, I would sue the hospital. They cannot have tired and exhausted people doing human critical jobs. Nursing as a profession should never be understaffed or under qualified. Thats just corporate greed taking over.

hopingonhope
Guest

*baby would recover.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

If the hospital is sued it will ultimately fall on the nurse personally. I very seriously doubt the hospital will take responsibility for the accident.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

The hospital is actually being very supportive of the nurse. She worked for over 35 years with not a single incident and is in a bad way since this tragic accident. I’m sure there will be a law suit but the nurse was a very competent nurse.

Kara
Guest
Kara

You do realize almost every single one of your hospital staff Is probably running on little to no sleep doing critical jobs all day, everyday, right??

hopingonhope
Guest

As a patient all we see are smiling faces from nurses and support staff. So its hard to fathom a guess that behind that smiling persona is someone who hasnt slept for over 20 hours. It scares me, my
Life is dependent on people who themselves are in poor health. We all deserve better dont you agree? Hospitals cannot be run as not for profit and I get that, but certainly not this way either.

DeniseRNC
Guest
DeniseRNC

I agree with everything you said. My first thought about why this could’ve happened was why wasn’t the mother feeding her own baby? Hospital nurses defy everything known about good sleep hygiene and optimal working conditions every day. The miracle is these things don’t happen more often. We are encouraged to own up to our mistakes and then are blamed for not being infallible and preventing them. I am a retired L&D RN who misses my work every day but does not miss the work environment.

Lisa Coen-Byrnes
Guest

there could be many reasons why the mother was not feeding her own baby. Perhaps she was sick, perhaps her milk had not come in. perhaps no matter how hard she tried the milk would not leave her breast. The internet is a very judgmental place, please do not plant seeds that will harm the mother.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Colostrum is there. Milk doesn’t “come in” for at least 2-3 days usually. Even still the mother should have that baby to breast as often as possible as milk comes In when there is a demand for It. More likely than naught, she was doing exactly what the OP stated, giving the mother a chance at rest. Even sick, a mother NEEDS to feed her infant. The amount of antibodies passed in her bodies attempt to fight the illness is profound. Unless she was on a medication that is known to pass through the milk and is harmful in this… Read more »

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

The point is not whether a baby should be breastfeed or not. The point is not about whether that mother’s milk was in or not. The point is, the mother should have been feeding HER baby, bottle or breast, her choice, but one she should have been doing.

baby whisperer
Guest

Maybe, just maybe, there are other issues at hand where mom wasn’t able to feed the baby. Maybe she was so zonked from pain meds, that she didnt feel comfortable being left alone with the baby in case she fell asleep, and/or dropped baby herself. Maybe she was a section mom and anesthesia hadnt wore off yet. Maybe she was a blood recipient and nurses felt it to be wise to bring baby into the nursery. Maybe she was one of those new moms where everyone comes in to visit, not giving her time to rest, and this was the… Read more »

Amy
Guest
Amy

As a 27 year veteran in a OB unit I have seen it all. As the article stated. The nurse never intended to harm the baby. I agree with the writer of this article. Once the baby is born, with the exception of procedures, the baby and mom need to stay together. And yes, I also think it’s important that they stay together because we need to see how the mom AND THE DAD adapt to this child in all situations. This means that new parents MUST accept to responsibility for this child and take care of your own baby.… Read more »

Lisa Coen-Byrnes
Guest

so you do not want to give the mother a break? Some mothers have to go back to work within a week because the company they work for does not give them maternity leave. So instead of giving mom some much needed sleep time after who knows how many hours of labor after being up for who knows how many hours before labor started so she can get a fresh start before she goes home. How is she going to learn anything from you or the others in the hospital if she is sleep deprived? What if she does not… Read more »

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Sure she can have a break. After she feeds her baby and puts it back to sleep. Just like she will be doing at home.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

1. I work in a hospital as a nurse that takes care of neonates in an intensive care setting, not in this hospital. 2. I actually delivered my children at this hospital 20 and 17 years ago, my babies stayed in my room with me the entire time. They do not staff a nursery so moms, single or not, tired from labor or not, recovering from c section or not, breastfeeding or not, the babies should be in the room with mom. This RN meant no harm to the infant, she was probably going above and beyond for a family… Read more »

wendy
Guest
wendy

Thank you for sayin exactly what I was trying to put into words. I am a nursing student and I will be graduating in 6 months. I fully realize that we are nurses first and humans second it seems, so as humans we are bound to make mistakes but as nurses we aren’t supposed to. That is a scary thought. I’m glad to see the hospital back and support their nurse in this situation because in this day and age, that doesn’t always happen. It is a sad occurrence what happened and the response I have seen from people is… Read more »

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

All I can say is God Bless Nurses….. they have one of the hardest jobs and are not appreciated enough. This poor nurse will remember the rest of her life this nightmare and I pray for both baby and her.

Beth
Guest
Beth

No one is punishing that nurse more than she is herself. I pray for her to have peace and the support from peers and her employer. It is an unfortunate situation. I pray for the child to have a complete healing. I pray that the parents will have forgiveness in their hearts.

Susan Peterson
Guest
Susan Peterson

Reading this is so bizarre. When I had my first three babies in the hospital I had to fight, fight, fight to keep them with me! Nurses would say they weren’t staffed to monitor babies who weren’t in the nursery! With my first baby they brought them out for feeds only. They came to me and complained he was crying and wanted to give him a bottle but when I refused and said bring him to me, they wouldn’t. I was there six days after my section in 1973 and never saw my baby unwrapped until I got him home!… Read more »

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

1973 vs 2015…..a lot has changed in health care since then. Please make educated statements when posting….or better yet, do not post at all if you do not work in health care and do not know hospital regulations!!!!

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

That was rude. She was just posting about her own experience.

Jane
Guest
Jane

I kind of agree, you are usually so fair but that is a but harsh! Just one lady’s experience : (

Joan Bogorae
Guest

the mother had not yet seen the baby to care for him before he was dropped….

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

That in itself does not even make sense. How is it a one day old baby, yet mom has never seen him! Mom should have seen and been taking care of him for the entire first day.

Not telling
Guest
Not telling

My son was born- and sent to a different hosptial. I didn’t seem him for 3 days. So

Caris J. Gray
Guest

As your dad, Shelly, I’m here to tell you that all accidents are preventable. Yes, we must adhere to this kind of thought or we’re going to allow them to happen because “we’re human and we make mistakes”. That said, I will try to explain the meaning to “all accidents are preventable”. It means you must take the environment in which you work in and interface it with the task at hand to insure a safe place for all involved. It can and should be done. And don’t worry I’ve never had a desire nor have the expertise to comment… Read more »

Sue
Guest

You can bet the internal facility communication will be abuzz with policy addendum or origination to prevent this from happening again. Lots of new paperwork to “fix” the problem. Our facility had a policy forbidding an infant from being carried in arms from one place to another. All infant transport had to be in the cribs. If an empty crib was in a hallway there was an alert for an infant abduction. I’ve seen several cases on the internet where a dad (Kennedy) tried to carry the baby outside and got in a world of trouble for violating the hospital… Read more »

Trina Berg
Guest
Trina Berg

When I had my son in January 2013 the last nurse we saw when being discharged almost dropped my 4 day old. I honestly don’t remember why she was even holding him. All I remember is seeing her carrying him, my infant flipping out of her arms and her catching him, upside down, against her body. I had an unwanted and unplanned c section and the fact that I couldn’t jump up and try to catch him was awful! I, along with the nurse, immediately started to cry. I was so grateful she caught him and felt so bad for… Read more »

Robin Gray
Guest
Robin Gray

I had my son by emergency c-section March this year, and I was entrusted with his care as soon as we were assigned a room. Hubby was there, but he works third shift (and so did I until 20 hours before baby arrived) so there was a lot of adjusting, but there was no offering to take the baby, and we managed fine, I’m so heartbroken for this nurse. I understand the parents lashing out from hurt, but that nurse has to be so heartsick – where is the help in heaping more guilt on her?

ChristineH
Guest
ChristineH

While I can completely understand the emotional response from the parents, I too immediately felt horrible for the nurse. I can imagine that dropping a newborn is easily one of the top fears for nurses, as I am certain it is a top fear for PARENTS as well. Heck, ANYTIME I hold a newborn I have a fear of dropping it! I worked with the neurosurgery dept of a hospital and accidental head trauma to newborns WAS NOT exactly uncommon. There were often newborns being seen because either a parent or caretaker accidentally dropped the baby or the parent fell… Read more »

cmsjnpg
Guest

Reblogged this on economicsreaders.

Chris
Guest
Chris

As always, I just love your take on this! XOXO

Sue
Guest

A nightmare for every L&D nurse for sure. I worked on a unit that delivered 9,000+ babies a year. With that volume efficient and timely care is paramount. It seems like there are some details missing in this story and responses. My heart aches for both the parents/infant and the nurse who will truly never forget this horror. I took several measures when “catching the baby” to avoid dropping one. Still my middle son managed to hit the floor more than once during his first year thru beginner mistakes. I wasn’t a nurse til several years later but so sympathize… Read more »

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Everyone should walk in a nurses footsteps for 24 hours…maybe then those that judge harshly would understand and be more empathetic to the most trusted professionals in the world…Gods speed to the baby and the nurse. Cheryl Lottti,MSN, RN a nurse for 35 years

Deborah
Guest
Deborah

This is why nurses should be allowed to have an allocated sleep/nap when they work night shifts. Working with Sleep deprivation is equivalent to working while under the influence. One of the best jobs I had as a nurse was in Toronto at Mount Sinai hospital in the ER where they added together breaks and meal times and encouraged you to sleep. Even a short nap can invigorate a person allowing them to give wakeful and safe care. Many errors in the hospital can be traced to lack of sleep… As many car accidents in mornings on way home from… Read more »

Sarah
Guest
Sarah

I just read this in yahoo and all I can say is… Thank you!! I chose a birth center for my second birth and part of the reason I did was because I knew I wouldn’t be separated at all from my baby. Whether you’ve just pushed them out or it’s been a few hours, whether you’re exhausted or not, sick or not, bottle feeding or breastfeeding, being a mom is the job you signed up for after you became pregnant. Nurses are not babysitters!

L
Guest
L

I do know the woman and quite obviously there was no malicious intent and she is very sweet and knows very well how to do her job. I spent a lot of my life in Uniontown Hospital and they are quite frequently short staffed and lacking in a lot of resources and it also gets a bad reputation for the way it is run so I was genuinely surprised to find out that the hospital is actually backing up someone in a situation like this. Yes, they are stressed, and she shouldn’t have held the baby while so exhausted but… Read more »

Ruth Miller
Guest
Ruth Miller

Only in the U.S. do we say, “Here’s your baby; fend for yourself.” We set moms up for failure, and enjoy it (as evidenced here).

L
Guest
L

I’m disgusted by so many aspects of this. I’m disgusted at how people are treating this nurse. She is human and of course she feels nothing but pain and guilt right now. It does not excuse her accident, but she should be forgiven, because she is human and I feel for the pain and guilt she is feeling right now. I’m disgusted at how this article and commenters are blaming the mother. Because mothers are also human, who should be able to entrust their healthcare provider with their children if they are in physical and/or mental distress after giving birth… Read more »

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Please let’s not vilify the mother in order to defend the nurse. We can support the nurse without making assumptions about the mother. I had to have a nurse feed my newborn baby because I suffered complications from my cesarean, and while I was fighting for my life, my son’s sugars dropped and they needed to give him formula until I was able to nurse him. If something had happened to my child during that time I would have been absolutely devastated, I couldn’t imagine my parenting being questioned in addition. I’d also like to add that the nurse that… Read more »

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

I am a Nursery RN and a mother.my heart goes out to both the family and RN in this situation. Nap time for night shifters is not a good idea in my opinion, I would be more tired if I actually got to rest. Our unit is a traditional Nursery and hasn’t made the switch to mother/baby. We do encourage parents to keep their infant with them, but we also encourage them to get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. Yes they will have many sleepless nights ahead of them and they shouldn’t get used to having us “babysit”. Many… Read more »

Lisa Zimmerman
Guest

Nursing has changed over the years. Consumers of health care need to be aware of the way that hospitals are being rated. There are many organizations (breast feeding, etc) that advocate infants being with their mothers for 23 out of 24 hours. The amount of time that an infant stays in the nursery is tracked and goes towards the rating that the hospital is given. I am a nurse that works in a neonatal intensive care nursery. Dropping an infant has always and will always be the greatest fear that I have. As consumers of health care if you do… Read more »

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Thank you so much for writing this! True to the very last word.

Andrea
Guest
Andrea

I am a nurse and I feel for both sides. I have made mistakes over my 20 years of being a nurse and it’s a horrible feeling. Thank god no one was ever hurt. When I was starting out as a nurse, I use to prey to god “please don’t let me hurt anyone”. It’s one of the biggest fear in a nurse’s day. Those mistakes I made also made me a better nurse today. I have learned to slow down during my day. I have learned to ask for help. I have learned to speak up when I’m not… Read more »

RRT Respiratory
Guest
RRT Respiratory

People have no idea what we really do! I bet if they come & observe us they will probably cry & run out… LOVE & RESPECT TO ALL NURSES OUT THERE. ,
ICU REGISTERED RESPIRATORY THERAPIST SAN DIEGO

erlifesaver
Guest
erlifesaver

All mistakes cannot be prevented. A lot can. As a critical care nurse for over 30 years, I have been lucky…whatever mistakes I made were small and inconsequential. If I injured anyone, I know I would quit nursing at the very least, figuring I was no longer any good to anyone. It’s how we are wired. I liken it to having a “super hero” mentality. You live to continually pull off the impossible…a lifetime without mistakes. Make one and your world crumbles. There is no survival if you injure someone. It’s a really tough line to walk and if you… Read more »

Jenn
Guest
Jenn

I live in the city where this happened. This is the local news report concerning this situation.

http://www.intelligencer.ca/2017/03/10/baby-injured-in-fall-at-bgh

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