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That moment a nurse never forgets

Every nurse has at least one eye-opening experience that changes them forever. One of mine happened in a pediatric oncology unit almost 20 years ago.

I was taking care of a seven-year-old boy, Jack*, who was recovering from a bone marrow transplant. Weakened by intense radiology and chemotherapy treatments, he had been unresponsive for several days.

Despite his illness, Jack was an optimist. He was raising money to buy a bicycle so he could ride home from the hospital one day. Jack made and sold buttons for 50 cents each to help reach his goal.

When I was doing rounds one night, I dropped two quarters in the jar next to his bed and took a button. I pinned it to my scrubs and gave the jar a shake to let Jack know he was one step closer to that bike, though he wasn’t conscious at the time.

Kerry wore Jack's button as a patient safety reminder when administering medication.

Kerry wore Jack’s button as a patient safety reminder when administering medication.

The next night I was in Jack’s room, with a medication I had checked and was ready to give. The previous medication was still infusing, so I put the bag I was holding back in the fridge to administer later.

When I came back to get it, I didn’t realize the pharmacy had delivered another bag and pushed Jack’s medication to the back.I grabbed the wrong bag.

As I stood over Jack’s bed to begin administering the medication, he woke up – for the first time in a week. He looked at my pin and asked, “Hey, did you pay for that?”

After I proved to him I had indeed paid, I looked up at the bag I was about to spike. It had another child’s name on it. I could have killed him.

I’ll never forget that night, and how fortunate it was that Jack woke up at that exact moment. For the rest of my hospital career, I wore his button. It was my patient safety reminder – to double-check the “five rights” and beyond with every medication.

Thankfully, safety nets have evolved since then. The technology we have to help with medication administration is one of the reasons I’m so passionate about what we do at Allscripts.

Because of these experiences, every one of us is willing to do whatever it takes to improve patient safety. I’m so grateful for everything nurses do every day to care for patients.

Nurses all have stories that have impacted their careers. I share mine to celebrate and encourage nurses during International Nurses Day (May 12) and Nurses Week (May 6 – 12) in the United States. Please consider sharing your own story, either about your own experience as a nurse or how a nurse may have helped you, in the comment section below.

* Name changed to protect privacy

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