Caterpillars and Oj

Regardless of your profession, or how well you perform any given task, eventually you will make a mistake. Mistakes happen. Every single day. One day, you too, will make a mistake. Here is the question that perplexes me. Why are some human tasks more excusable when mistakes are made?  For example. The other day I took my jeep to the shop for a “knocking noise”. The fellas who work on my jeep are amazing guys and good mechanics.

“You need brakes”. Then he told me something more about calipers or caterpillars  or something more and something else that does something else to the other thing. No clue. I signed the dotted line agreeing to pay for whatever “he just said”.  A few hours later, I picked my jeep back up and was once again a happy camper.  The next day, the noise returned.  Clumpy-dump..clumpy-dump…clumpy dump…..ok wait. I just paid 349 dollars for brakes, shoes (who knew a jeep wore shoes? I would think more like combat boots) and rooters or routers or rotors…something like that, and still there was that SAME clumpy-clump-dump noise.

I returned to the shop. My favorite mechanic listened intently as I ranted and raved about the noise, about having to come back TWICE for the same problem and for paying for something I didn’t need. He nodded, smiled and reassured me that he personally would look at the jeep as soon as he could.

Two days later my jeep was fixed. The O joint ring…?? O joint ball and chain? Something. I don’t have a clue. I needed a new ball and chain. Regardless, it was fixed. The bill for round two was another couple hundred dollars.  I explained to him how unfair it was that I had to pay for brakes when obviously it was not the reason for clumpy-clump-dump.  Patiently, he listened. He nodded. Then he spoke.

“Jessi, it’s hard to diagnose any vehicle based on noises.Especially when the noise is intermittent. You needed brakes, otherwise I would not have put them on your car. I am sorry for the mistake, but we did the best we could based on the information we had. Look at it this way, you won’t need brakes for a long time. I apologize for the inconvenience  and will take 50 dollars off your bill”.

He was right. Based on my description of clumpy clump-de dump, I am surprised he didn’t suggest a whole new engine. But you know, he did what he thought was right. He did what he thought was best for the jeep. He thought he was doing right by me. But he made a mistake. He couldn’t go back in and take the brakes off, out the old ones back on and undo the labor he had already invested into fixing it. So, he tried to make the bitter check writing moment a little better by deducting 50 dollars.     Like I said, mistakes happen.

In health care, things are so different. Mistakes cost lives. Poor care causes harm. Saying “sorry” doesn’t always fix the problem or lighten the pain inflicted. The other day, an employee made a mistake.   Side rails are used to keep patients in the bed, especially those who writhe about due to Huntington’s disease. Constant movement will eventually land the patient on the floor without a side rail, padded for safety.  The caregiver provided care for the patient. Care is a good thing. BUT, she made a mistake. You know that side rail? She left it down accidentally.  She simply forgot in the haste of tending to 16 other patients, she forgot. She made a mistake.

The patient fell face first on the floor. No apparent injury was noted other than slight bruising. The story doesn’t end there. The husband was enraged. Inflamed/ Furious. Livid.Angry.He wanted blood from “whoever did this to his wife”.  I can’t simply tell him I will knock 50 bucks off his bill. Heck, I can’t even offer 1000 and make it right. What he wants is justice for his wife.  He calls every agency that can be called, explaining how we did not carry out a doctors order for side rails, how his wife fell on her face, how any injury to someone as frail as her could lead to death……and demanded we be held liable and accountable.      I understand his point. I really do.  But mistakes happen.  The license that hangs on my wall as “administrator” says I have the right to  PRACTICE what I do, not be PERFECTED by doing it.  The staff that provide care, they do the best they can. They do the same task over and over and over every day, all day, day in, day out. Guess what, mistakes happen.  We as health care workers are not infallible. Mistakes will happen.  Yet, we risk our licenses every day when we come to work, wondering if today’s mistake will be the mistake that will cost us our license or worse yet, someone’s life.

I know the husband has a right to be angry. I’m angry too. But I know no human is perfect. That’s why aircraft mechanics use books, and follow the protocols step by step, even though they could perform the task without any guide. A second mechanic checks behind the first, using the same book…..they are as perfect as the person who wrote the manual.  In health care, we are as perfect as each day allows us to be in the practice of health care.

The jeep? It drives like a champ. The brakes will stop on  a dime. Clumpy clump de clump is gone….replaced by the sound of the tires purring on the pavement. It’s perfect.


2 thoughts on “Caterpillars and Oj

  1. I volunteer with hospice and looking to be a life enrichment director for a dementia facility. I must admit as a volunteer I was that one father. A patient I was visiting once a week complained of feeling faint and began to have a bloody nose. I checked her oxygen tank to see an empty bottle where the water was supposed to be. I immediately called my coordinator “who is supposed to be checking her water!” That was the last time her water was ever empty.

    great article and look forward to reading more of your stories 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s