Owning Up to a Mistake


"I know I needed to own up to my mistake for the safety of the patient; however, I struggled with the best way to communicate it."



Dear Masked Maven,


After staffing a busy surgical room with multiple cases, my surgical team and I were preparing for our final case. While the scrub person was setting up their back field, they asked me to open additional suture. As I began to open the package, the plastic suture holder slipped out of the foil and grazed my finger while in motion to the back table. I froze. Time stood still as I felt the gravity of the situation fall on my shoulders. I had to own up to my mistake and in doing so, I looked around the room at my teammates who were about to be upset with me, the girl who caused the contamination. I know I needed to own up to my mistake for the safety of the patient; however, I struggled with the best way to communicate it. Help!


Owning Up



Dear Owning Up,


Mistakes are unfortunate reminders of our humanity. In the moment of their occurrence, they can evoke a terrible sense of disappointment, yet they are an inherent part of our experience. Coping with mistakes can be approached with honesty and poise. In the scenario described above, my foremost suggestion would be to pause, gather yourself with a deep breath, and recollect the commitment you made as a perioperative nurse—to provide unwavering care for your patients, even in challenging situations.

Next, it is important to promptly inform your surgical team. Anticipate that their initial reaction might echo your own—disappointment. Taking ownership of the mistake is crucial; express your willingness to take necessary measures to address the situation. It is worth noting that we have all, at some point in our careers, encountered situations where we inadvertently compromised a sterile field. The most constructive path forward is to confront the mistake, always bearing in mind the well-being of the patient. Opting for the high road may not always be the easiest route, but it reflects your commitment to professional integrity.

When facing a mistake, give yourself some grace. Remember, our growth often comes from learning lessons from our mistakes and committing to better practices moving forward. And next time, open that suture with surgical precision.

All the Best,


Dear maven Icon

Masked Maven

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