Healthcare Providers: How to Deal With a Mistake at Work

Healthcare Providers: How to Deal With a Mistake at Work was originally published on Hospital Recruiting.

A group of healthcare providers discussing a recent error in patient care.

When you make a mistake at work, it can definitely be a stressful time! Making a mistake can have consequences that could range from people losing confidence in you to endangering your job. While making a mistake can seem very bad at the time, it is an opportunity to better yourself and improve how you are perceived. The key, when you do make an error, is how you respond to your mistake, as this often has more of an impact on those around you and their perception of you than the mistake itself.


Admit Your Mistake 

No matter how badly you messed up, you should always admit your mistake. Admitting your mistake is not only the right thing to do, but when your mistake is discovered, it will reflect very poorly on you if it appears that you tried to hide it. While some mistakes may seem like they can be hidden without others knowing about them, any mistake can be discovered somehow.

One of the fears that employees feel when admitting to an error is that they will be punished. Your boss should ideally be interested in growing you as a professional and helping you to develop your career. While every mistake will have some kind of consequence, your boss should be interested in helping you grow and develop. If your employer is more interested in punishing you for a mistake, it may be an indicator that you should be seeking opportunities with an employer who is more interested in growing their employees.


Create an Improvement Plan

When you admit your mistake to your bosses, ideally, you should also tell them what you learned from your mistake and present them with a plan to avoid similar mistakes in the future. You should also ask your employer for input in improving your performance to help avoid future mistakes. By creating a plan yourself, you show initiative and a serious desire to do better in the future. You also help set the tone for interactions related to the mistake by showing that you are focused on improvement, and this can help your superiors to be in that mindset moving forward.

Creating an improvement plan should be proportionate to the mistake. Having a big meeting with your boss and going over your plan for improvement could be unhelpful if the mistake was a more minor error, like double-booking a meeting. For a larger error, such as one that creates a possibility of harm or causes a large expense, a meeting and improvement plan can be helpful.


Accept Full Responsibility

No one likes someone who admits to the mistake, but then tries to make excuses or blame others for the mistake. Taking full responsibility for your mistake shows that you have the character to accept the responsibility for your actions. This is especially important if you are in a position of leadership. Leaders are responsible for the mistakes that those under them make and trying to blame your subordinates will only hurt your reputation as a leader.

If there are circumstances that contributed to your mistake, there is nothing wrong with pointing out those circumstances. Be sure, however, that you do not appear to be making excuses. If pointing out contributing circumstances may seem to be making excuses, be sure to clarify that you are taking full responsibility and not making excuses for yourself.


Apologize (Once)

Admitting your mistake and accepting responsibility for it is not the same as apologizing. Apologizing enables you to express that you are personally sorry that the mistake occurred and helps your boss to understand that you are regretful that you made a mistake and understand the way that it impacted your organization. While apologizing is necessary and recommended, you should also avoid over-apologizing. Once you have apologized, the incident should be behind you and everyone else. Continuing to apologize or beat yourself up will only continue to draw attention to the mistake and engrain it in the minds of those around you. A good team and boss should let the mistake go after you apologize and not continue to bring it up.


Fix It 

While not every mistake can be fixed, you should go out of your way to fix the mistake as much as possible. People pay much more attention to your actions than they do your words. Failing to take the actions needed to at least reduce the effects of your mistake can show that you are not truly sorry or committed to improving yourself in the long-term. By doing everything you can to fix your mistake or reduce its effects, you will show that you are a committed member of your team and are truly focused on your professional growth.


How you respond to your mistakes will have a great influence on how you are perceived as an employee and as a part of your team. Responding correctly by accepting responsibility, apologizing, and attempting to correct your mistake will help you to succeed in your job.