11 things patients say or do that make nurses scratch their heads

Patients are constantly saying and doing things that even the most seasoned nurses will struggle to understand. And by that, we really just mean “not completely lose their minds over.”

Sound about right? We thought so. Either way, let’s explore some of these common “palm to face” moments.


1. Patient is prescribed an inhaler due to a cat allergy.

Returns one week later to report persistent symptoms (see below).


Nurse discovers patient has been spraying cat in the face with said inhaler for six days.


2. Nurse visits patient seven times, meticulously gathering information to determine their medical history, their daily routine and even (somehow) their grandmother’s cousin’s maiden name.

Patient asks to speak to someone in the hospital who “actually knows what’s going on…like a doctor.”



3. Patient is admitted to the ER with abdominal pain—ultimately diagnosed with minor indigestion.

Patient requests sponge bath prior to release.



4. Couple reports accidental pregnancy to nurse.

Nurse investigates—asks couple if they are on the pill.

Boyfriend confirms that he has been taking the pill daily for three months.



5. Patient asks nurse how many days a week they work. Nurse responds, “Three.”

Patient compares nurse to 16-year-old daughter, who hasn’t missed a day of school yet and volunteers at a home for the elderly…every other weekend.



6. Nurse asks patient to rate their pain on a scale of 1-10.

Patient asks nurse exactly which rating will get them a Mountain Dew faster….



7. Patient asks nurse, “Have you ever thought about becoming a doctor instead?”



8. Patient argues with nurse about the essential nature of their treatment.


Accuses nurse of being “hostile” and suggests a vacation.



9. Patient requests a private room on account of their celebrity status.


Tags the hospital in nine posts to Facebook and Instagram, including eight selfies and a photo of a woman in critical condition along with the caption “OMG.”



10. Nurse discovers a patient undergoing cardiac arrest. Nurse stabilizes patient by performing lifesaving CPR.


Patient expresses undying gratitude to the handsome doctor for doing, well—something. They just aren’t entirely sure what.



Then, there are the moments that will still stun nurses, but in a different way:

11. Nurse offers a few kind words to a distraught patient. Assumes patient will immediately forget.


Patient sends a card a year later, wanting the nurse to know their son has been given the nurse’s name.


Needless to say, it’s a pleasant surprise.


Nurses, we’re dying to know—what’s something a patient of yours has said or done to REALLY baffle you? Tell us all about it in the comments section below!


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7 Responses to 11 things patients say or do that make nurses scratch their heads

  1. dingwrig

    While assisting Doctor with pelvic, Doc asks pt. when she last had intercourse. No answer. He asked again. Still no answer. I said, please answer the doctor, we’re trying to help you. She said, “Oh, we’re you talking to ME?” No, we were discussing my sex life right over you!

  2. TeleNurse

    My conversation with a patient after being summoned to the bathroom:

    Nurse: Are you finished?

    Patient: Yes, but you need to wipe me. (Mind you, this patient had all of their faculties, and extremities)

    Nurse: (With a look of disbelief): Well, who wipes you at home?

    Patient: I use a coat hanger!

    Been trying to figure this one out for years!!

  3. Sage

    Pt dx with appendicitis and 0/10 pain awaiting surgery in ER. Suddenly, a pt next door starts bleeding out. After seeing multiple RNs and MDs run into room and see the bleeding pt wheeled out to OR, I go to check on my appendicitis pt. He reports that his pain is still 0/10 and asks “Is my surgery going to be delayed because of that guy?” I replied yes. The pt proceeded to roll his eyes and ask how long it would be delayed. I told him “I have no idea” and walked out to change my pants that had blood splatter all over them.

  4. RockyTopRN

    I once took care of a patient who carried her cremated dog around in her purse.

  5. MommaRN79

    While teaching a patient about their meds, I asked if they consume alcohol. The patient promptly responded “no, I only drink water, juice, coffee, and wine.” It took me 45 minutes to convince this woman that wine is alcohol.

  6. Goober

    LOVE IT!!

  7. Erin8182

    As a nicu nurse I was taking care of twin children, a boy and girl. The first time I met mom she wanted to know if they were identical !!!!!