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Funny nurse-to-patient miscommunications

ThinkStock | Victor Martello | Ferlistockphoto
ThinkStock | Victor Martello | Ferlistockphoto

We’ve all had patients who have mixed up our instructions. Here are 10 of the funniest miscommunications sent to us from our Funny Nurses page!

1. The ol’ yogurt for the yeast infection? Um, yeah…you were supposed to EAT it.

2. The father who calls from work about “the pink stuff” (amoxicillin). Isn’t it a little too thick to go through the nebulizer? Shouldn’t it be watered down?

3. The elderly lady who couldn’t understand why her husband needed medication for high blood pressure as well as low blood pressure. Turns out the “low pressure” for his low blood pressure was Lopressor!

4. The diabetic who was trained to administer insulin using an orange. When a nurse later discussed meds with the patient, the patient stated he was getting tired of oranges and wanted to know what other food he could inject and eat.

5. In the ER, a patient was asked, “Are you sexually active?” Response: “You mean I just lie there or what?”

6. A gentleman who was getting chemo had to have a 24-hour urine done with each cycle. He was given his “jug,” at which point he stated, “I just can’t do this again. I can’t stay up all night waiting to pee!”

7. The patient who repeated over the phone to various family members: “They’re putting a light up my privates to look at my heart.” She was talking about her heart ablation!

8. A patient who spoke poor English arrived in Labor and Delivery and said, “I’m here for my scheduled seduction”!!!

9. The patient who is in the bathroom a tad too long and finally comes out about 20 minutes later to hand you a cup of sperm. Be sure to specify what kind of specimen you want.

10. A patient returned to the ER because his fever wasn’t going down. When we asked about the suppository, he told us he didn’t know he was supposed to take it out of the foil wrapper.

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82 Responses to Funny nurse-to-patient miscommunications

  1. It’s great to have humor on the job! Especially such a stressful job as nursing.

  2. Jerri

    The old guy said he didnt care for the kentucky jelly that he put on his biscuit… A nurse had left a pack of KY jelly on his bedside table….

  3. Cynthia N Montoya, RN

    The patient who was insisting on Cepacol being applied topically because the previous nurse had sprayed his neck, not his throat:/ Scary.

  4. Rakhel

    The postpartum patient who hated the sitz bath because the “long tube where the water comes out into the bath was very uncomfortable in her already swollen birth canal”

  5. Lauren

    The dementia pt with a persistant cough, upon being offered robitussin, the pt replys “oh how i’d love to rub a husbin'”

  6. Gregg

    Gentleman (wearing an O2 mask) asks his nurse if his testicles are black. The nurse lifts the sheets, examines his scrotum, and informs him that they are not black. He removes his mask, and states, “that was nice, but are my test results back”?

    • Cynthia Vath

      That’s rich

    • Camoflahj

      Sorry, but that’s an old joke. We were not allowed to use SOB in our charting in school. Allegedly a nurse left a pt’s chart @bedside & he became very upset. True or not, it brought home the point to always make sure your pt knew exactly what you meant. Through the years there were pts where SOB was more appropriate than dyspneic.

      • Annette Cox

        We can no longer use abbreviation SOB which we all know means shortness of breath,due to a pt seeing his chart reading Pt. Is SOB. We now have to use SOTB=Shortness of the breath!!

    • Camoflahj

      Funniest thing in a chart: MD dictated, “Pt. took a cab home”. This was transcribed as “Pt. took a coronary artery bypass graft home”.
      Not so funny: Assisting a CNA with repositioning an obese pt. who was HOH. I said, “Boy, I’m swaetin’ like a stuck pig”. A few moments later this lovely lady burst into tears. Sobbing, she stated, “I am not a big fat pig”! I felt terrible! She wouldn’t believe me when I explained what I had really said. Still makes me feel rotten to this day that I umimtentionally hurt such a nice lady’s feelings.

  7. Nemrac

    #1 is actually a really good idea, and in frustration I’ve applied probiotics (out of a capsule) directly “there” and voila – no need for Diflucan! #10 sounds like a possible surgical intervention might be needed – OUCH! I once was suggesting a Tylenol suppository to a patient with fever and vomiting. The mother (I’m a peds RN) was extremely reluctant, which I didn’t think too much of initially until she asked “So, what you’ll just put it in the syringe and squirt it up his butt?”. This same patient ended up with a fecal impaction because mom didn’t think it was possible for him to “have any poo in him” since he hadn’t eaten in 4 days – he also hadn’t had a BM in 4 days…

  8. Your name

    Finding the pt with a suppository in their nose because the nursing student thought “PRN” meant Per Right Nostril.

    • mickeychris

      when my son was very little & had been sick a few days, the Dr. ordered a Supp. for him. When I told him to turn over, he said “but Mom I can swallow it”. When I told him how a Supp. works, he got well VERY quickly!

    • lynnhaney82@gmail.com

      When I was a student years ago, we did not give medication without an instructor checking 3 times after we checked 3 times and reminding us we were working on HER license so she also watched us administer it and nitpicked every thing we had done. And always left with you’ll do better next time. So if I put a suppository in a nostril I would have quit before admitting I didn’t know what PRN meant.

  9. debRN

    How about the one when the nurse read the order as “2 gtts R ear” (it was for an ear infection). Guess where she put the drops? And more amazingly the patient let her!

  10. Granny Rene, RN x 35 yrs.

    Remember that having a patient return/repeat a demonstration or set of instructions is the BEST way to know if they have correctly understood what you just taught them. With all of the new meds and delivery systems even nurses with MY experience need help knowing how to work a lot of the devices we send patients home with! Never be too embarrassed to ASK another nurse or pharmacist, or even look up something on the Internet!
    If the patient is unable to comprehend then the responsible nurse MUST find someone who IS capable to be responsible for the medication/dressing procedure, insulin injection, whatever or alert the MD that it is not safe to discharge the patient. To do less is negligent and invites an ER visit, repeat hospitalization or worse, especially if the patient is a child.

    • Nurse Tweety

      I teach patients how to test their blood sugar and inject insulin. I always have them repeat the steps for me and more than once.

  11. Joedy

    ok 35 years lady. Laugh a little more girlfriend or you will go insane with the stress we deal with.

    • Granny Rene, RN x 35 yrs

      If you had ever worked with me you would know that I am one of the most hilarious people who can tell the funniest stories that have become ‘legendary’ in my wake.
      However, some of the things that are thought to be SO FUNNY posted here are messes that I have had to clean up. So when it comes to the PATIENT’S needs and well being I take NO prisoners!

      • nursedude420

        Yeah you sound like a real blast to work with. More experience doesnt always equate with better nursing. Im pretty sure that every nurse knows about proper patient education, some are just too lazy to do it.

  12. mary

    i agree this forum is for fun not a sermon. besides you are preaching to the choir.

  13. Granny Rene, RN x 35

    Perhaps it is a matter of demographics but I suppose that it all ‘chapped’ me because a lot of these miscommunications are REAL in my practice and I HAVE dealt with the aftermath too many times.
    Where I live most of the hospitals have done away with diabetic educators and other patient education programs, leaving the patient to their own devices or ‘turfing’ to the Home Health agencies which are woefully understaffed and are more generalists than education specialists.
    And you are correct, I was ‘preaching to the choir’. Guess I have seen more than my share and it all just hit a nerve. My bad. Sorry.

  14. Gale

    I was at my first job, fresh out of nursing school in 1980, and a wonderful CNA that I worked with taught me the little trick of sprinkling baby powder on the seat of the old metal bedpans we used back then. The problem with those pans was that if the patients sweat or got the seat of the pan wet, while sitting on them, they would stick to them terrible, but if you sprinkled the seat with a little baby powder, they slid right out. One day, while in a hurry, I grabbed what I thought was baby powder off the patient’s bedside table, sprinkled the bedpan and placed it under him. When he called for someone to come get it, the bedpan was stuck to his back side like glue! No one could get it out from under him. When the CNA asked why I did not use baby powder, I told her I had and showed her the container – a jar of Super PolyGrip Powder! Oh my… Submitted by Gale Rice Reavis from Winston Salem, NC. I have loved being a nurse for over 31 years.

    • paminnh

      Love that story !!! I also have loved being a nurse for 30 years !!!! Rock ON!!!!

      • RNJedi

        The powder works better on butts than gums I take it? LOL

    • Vicky Dunsmore Paschke

      Your story made me laugh…I bet at the time you wished you had checked the label 3 times before administration, right? Who knew?

    • Mrs. C

      Grabbed a clear bottle of KY from the med cart for a digital check for impaction and proceeded to squirt it into a medicine cup to take to the patients room. My CNA said Umm- thats hand sanitizer. Thank Goodness she caught that. I can imagine what that would have felt like.

  15. Hahaha

    One day one of the CNA’s that I work with went up to a resident and asked him in her heavily Filipino accented way, “Let me see your teeth.” He just stared at her. She said again, “Please let me see your teeth.” Again, he looked at her dumbfounded but reluctantly pulled up his shirt exposing his right breast. She looked at him and said “I didn’t say teets! I want to clean your mouth!” OMG…I have never laughed so hard. She told me that and laughed at herself! What a trooper! Fantastic CNA also.

  16. Pam

    I love it.I had a pt. She was immobile and a hoyer lift,on lasix, she said she was the peeanist woman I would ever innie.

  17. Court

    Nurse:”I need you to pee in a cup.”
    Male Patient:”Do I have to take my shoes off?”
    Nurse:” If you have to take your shoes off to pee in a cup, I need to see this. I’ve heard of people keepin’ it in their sneaker, but I’ve never seen it.”

  18. crazy busy mom

    I had a doc ask me to change a patients socks once. When he came back to ask about the socks, I asked him why he wanted the socks changed? he looked at me and slowly said.. “check a pulse ox” HAHAHA

  19. jospears

    Hysterical! For any of you out there who are retired or thinking about it. check out stillanurse.com, a website for retired nurses with monthly top ten lists and a nurse retirement readiness quiz!

  20. am823

    Hahaha! I once had an elderly patient when I was in clinical, when I told him I would come back in a minute with some *clean sheets* he said “Oh no thank you, I don’t care for cream cheese!” — The cutest!!

  21. aspeedsk8ter

    I once had a pt who’d just had a big MI and we didn’t have any BSC’s available so we were pushing his bed to the bathroom, one day he decided to push the bed to the BR himself cause he knew we were busy and didn’t want to bother us!

  22. aspeedsk8ter

    Once I had a pt tell me he lost his teeth so I searched the dirty linen, went to the laundry area and we searched there, the kitchen and searched the dirtytrays and couldn’t find them so I went back to tell the pt and he gave me this big toothy smile!! I couldn’t believe they were in his mouth the whole time, guess I should have searched there first!!

  23. NetRN RN

    During walking rounds at the patient’s bedside, the young, pretty RN I was giving report to told the HOH patient “I will be back to see you after report”, to which the patient replied “I don’t think I can sleep with you, I’m paralyzed on the left side and have trouble having sex.”

  24. thtonya

    these are great!

  25. paminnh

    I once had an elderly man that was getting ready for bed. I asked him if he had to pee and he just looked at me. I asked him if he had to void and he screamed WHAT??? So then I said do you have to urinate? And he became indignant and said “I’m an ape !! I’d had to say what you are!” Thank God for the lighter moments!!!

  26. Amyb6465

    I had a mom and daughter the other night. Daughter to be seen by mental health. Mother states “She’s eating a lot and I want her to have a cat scan to see if her depression is still there” Needless to say, daughter did not have a CT scan and was discharged. I’ve heard a lot of complaints but this was one that made me chuckle!

  27. GrannieF

    Marking a nursing student’s exam paper and the unborn infant was referred to as “being in neutro”! Sounds like it had its gear together!

  28. carollynnSKJ Caption Contest

    I’ll always remember when an EKG tech came to the nurse’s station and yelled at the nurses stating, you called for an EKG and you left that poor old man sitting up in the chair in a hospital gown with his “gentiles” hanging out of it. She didn’t think it was funny when we started trying to stifle our laughs.

  29. carollynnSKJ Caption Contest

    When I was the equivalent of a candy striper, (pinkies), a patient told me to take her stool to the nurse’s station. I couldn’t understand why she wanted me to do this but, I dutifully went under her bed and got the foot stool and took it to the nurse’s station. I told the nurses that the lady insisted on this and they just cracked up. (This was in the very early ’60’s) When the nurses explained what a stool was, I was so embarrassed. I’d never heard it expressed that way at home. In addition, my friend Cathy filled all the urinals with ice water because she thought they were pitchers. We were very innocent back then and they set us loose on the patients with very little type of training.

    • 3rdflrnurse

      Laughter is the best med. After a long shift, reading this blog, I’m laughing so hard tears are flowing. Thanks.

  30. Old Nursery RN

    (Years ago) Standing in front of a window full of family anxiously waiting to find out what their newborn would weigh, the new father glanced at the baby’s weight (displayed in grams), looked up at his family and exclaimed, “36 pounds, 25 ounces!! She weighs 36 pounds and 25 ounces!!” Of course, she was really 7# 10 oz…..

  31. moda

    Um.. About #9… I’m pretty sure nobody handed a nurse “a cup of sperm”. A cup of semen, perhaps, but an entire cup of sperm? No.

  32. kalen15

    A pt with HR 130’s walking in the halls. RN to pt’s RN “your pt needs to go back to bed, she’s tachy,” Pt, “I’m not tacky you are!”

  33. swimgym13

    I had given report one time on a younger patient who was post OP. In report I say the patient has scds to which the patient interrupts and yells I don’t have no STDs ! LOL that made my day.

  34. kissmekate

    My patient a young mom having her 1st baby was being induced and had just had her water broken. I would go in her room and of course ask her if she needed anything and say, “I’m going to check your chux.” (To see if it needed to be changed, obviously). The second and third time she gave me this strange look… as I was leaving the room I heard her ask her husband… “Why does she keep calling my vagina a chucks?”
    I laughed at myself for not explaining better. I felt so bad. We expect the general public to know our terminology or medical slang!
    Next time I went in I made sure I said, “chux pad.” When I left the room I heard her husband laughing so hard followed by her saying, “shut up” as she roared hysterically too.
    She told me the story later and I told her I had heard her ask her husband but it was my fault and didnt want to make her feel bad for the miscommunication. We had a good laugh and remain GREAT friends today.

  35. Auyd19

    I have to ask all diabetic, male patients if they have any problem with erectile dysfunction! I asked an 82 year old and he said straight away “no, I cured that years ago, I have prunes every morning for breakfast and now I’m regular as clockwork”! Just goes to show we should’t use jargon that patients may not understand, I laughed once he left the room and I didn’t have the heart to re phrase the question!

  36. amsrn0513

    PT downgraded from ICU after a long intubation; refusing to wear a Hi-flow cannula destats quickly; I state It is imperative for you to keep this on in order to recover. PT replies ‘WHY’ you’re all trying to kill me, I am never going to leave this place, then attempts to pull a PICC line out. I call the family at 0000 to sit with the patient, when the daughter arrives the PT gets combative and accuses me of being a Wicked Witch and that ‘Dorothy’ is gonna melt me. My reply…Well I’ll just get a tornado to sweep her away, now will you please put that Hi-flow back on and stop attempting to rip out your PICC line.

    • RNJedi

      It is “desats” not “destats.” Funny stuff.

  37. Dvd51988

    I was interviewing a new resident that did not speak English and her spouse spoke poor English. When asked if she had ever had seizures, he said “yes”, when asked when, he replied “when she had baby, and made gestures toward his stomach….meaning “caesarean” section.

  38. Shannon Watts

    In nursing school I was doing an assessment on a patient. I asked her if she was having trouble sleeping. She stated “Not since I got my pap smear machine…” I was so puzzled. Then I realized she meant CPAP machine. Uh…2 totally different things. :)

  39. AmiRN76

    No you don’t EAT the yogurt when using it as a do-it-yourself treatment for a yeast infection. Yogurt contains Lactobacillus acidophilus which is also found in healthy vaginas. Apply it directly to the labia and you can even use a tampon inserter to squirt it right up into the vagina. Use plain non-flavored yogurt of course.

  40. navywife21

    I once need a sputum specimen from a patient. I went over why I needed it with him, gave him the specimen cup, told him how to do it, and told id be back in 15 minutes to check on him. I came back and he handed me the specimen cup..filled with sperm. It was quite hilarious. He said all he heard me say was “sperm sample” and stopped listening after that haha

  41. handsoffmymail

    This is sad, but funny as it attests to the innocence of children. A young child was having their foot amputated in the am due to massive trauma. The child earnestly looked at me and asked how long until my foot grows back?

  42. Susan Adams Bleakney

    After removing a foley catheter from my female patient, I instructed her that we would be doing a voiding trial and she would need to void in the hat. A little while later I returned and walked into the bathroom to check her progress and the hat which I had put in place on the commode. I noticed there was a very tiny amount of urine in the hat. Returning to her bedside, I asked her…” Is the urine that is in the hat all you could go?” She looked me straight in the eye and said matter of factly, “I tried to avoid the hat as well as I could, and I am sorry, but I did get a little bit in it.”

  43. TheNurseyNurse

    Oh lord, number 2! haha

  44. joeyb

    Funniest thing I ever heard was a black mother on her cell phone telling family members that we were giving her child peanut butter balls for her daughters seizures. (Phenobarbital).

  45. laurenp_rn

    For #1 the patient makes sense! Plain yogurt directly to the source.

    Eating the yogurt would make sense for a GI candida infection, but not for a vaginal yeast infection. The vajay isn’t connected to the bowel (hopefully). And if your bloodstream isn’t sterile, you got bigger problems than a yeast infection! Eating the yogurt just wouldn’t get those good bacteria to your vagina.

  46. Erika Judd

    My teacher told me that one of her previous students couldn’t find a pedal pulse after trying for quite a while & came to her to get help during a clinical. My teacher couldn’t understand what the problem was as her patient was a generally healthy young man. She walked into the room & found the man had a blatant erection and the student nurse was looking for his PENILE pulse. She sent her home & failed her for that day’s clinical.

    • mommypatts

      When I was in nursing school 34 years ago we were doing clinic on a Medical -surgical floor. All at once a very flustered student came out to tell me she couldn’t find her person’s pedal pulses. I walked in to the room to help her and looked at the patient who was very dead. I left right away to get the floor nurse and told her and she stated yes he had just died and he was a No Code. I went back to the student and said always look at your patient the face first instead of starting at his feet. I taught nursing students and always tell them this story so they won’t be so task oriented but people oriented. LOL those were the days!!

  47. Vicky Dunsmore Paschke

    I was detoxing an alcoholic patient and he said something to me that was nonsensical. I responded to him, “That’s an oxymoron.” He became very upset and said to me, “Don’t call me a moron!” I apologized and left the room quickly so I didn’t burst out laughing while I was still in the room. I can’t hear the word oxymoron to this day without laughing!

  48. Jacque12

    A patient came to the ER several times for syncope. The ER could never find a reason and his BP was always fine. The last time he left with his wife to wait for the bus and he passed out right outside the ER. Back in the day, nitro paste and hemorrhoid creams both came in a similar style tube. The wife said “I just gave him the hemorrhoid cream to use just before we left the hospital.” The alert ER RN after hearing which tube she was using color coded the tubes for her with a brown and red marker. Nitro paste for hemorrhoids will cause definite problems. The patient never came back for syncope.

  49. racejustint

    None of these are very funny, and I don’t see how anyone (especially health care providers) could think they are very funny since a lot of them probably caused problems for the patient’s treatments. There are things that happen at hospitals that are actually funny, but these are not.

    • sharo1235

      Yes they are ! Get a grip, if you can’t laugh at some things, you will get burned out REAL fast !!

  50. rnowakowski

    TO those who have voiced concern about the negative tone of this article… It’s for fun! I love being a nurse. I love my patients and helping to care for them. That does not mean I love when a patient sits himself on the floor and cries out that he fell down, just to get more pain meds, and it was actually witnessed. I don’t love patients who just had a knee replacement and then complains to the manager that the CNA wouldn’t put her shirt on for her. And I don’t love when I spend more time as their cruise director than I do as their nurse! This is a place where we can come and vent, because nobody here would really say those things to their patients!

  51. partsgirl0991

    The patient’s SO who stated the patient has CDX disease. Took a few more questions to find out it was Celiac Disease

  52. NurseRed

    I’ll never forget when I worked in a clinic and brought bac k a pt. The reason read, “ED follow-up.” So I asked what took him to the Emergency room in the first place and he said he has not gone to the ED. And I said, ” oh, it says the appointment is for an ED follow-up, soooo…why are you here?” He said, ” Erectile dysfunction sweetie.” Lmao oppps

  53. mommypatts

    I worked in ICU for many years but one day I had a little old lady in ICU and I came into her room and told her “LYTES” were off and I needed to get a specimen from her. She looked at me very stricken and said “Oh Honey I paid my electric bill before I came into the hospital:!!!! Communication is a must in clear easy to understand language! LOL

  54. sesposito

    This patient needs cathed stat…quick go get me a 16 Fr.NGT…(The others stood by wondering..”A new tube feeding method perhaps?”)

  55. Mrs. C

    During an admission evaluation my question was ” Do you smoke?” The daughter was present and answering for her mother and stated no. The next question was concerning alcohol use and I asked “Drink?” The daughter very brightly said “oh yes!” As this is not the reply I get most often I asked how often and the daughter said everyday. I asked what did her mother drink and she said “Oh tea, coffee, water, juice…” At this point I started laughing and when I explained I had meant alcohol we all had a really good laugh. It is so good to laugh!

  56. naomiedwards

    Very funny, noticed more than one nurse that DID speak English well say at handover, “the patient was drowsy but arousable”!! OK then!!!

  57. Nathan Weatherholt

    A new nurse asked one of the patients if she had ever had CABG before. Of course she said yes…it was passed on in report for a few days until another nurse asked “who did your open heart surgery and when it was done, your scar is invisible!”

  58. AngelGood

    I was looking at a new patient admission chart. The report from the hospital listed prostate cancer as diagnosis. I was dumb struck when I looked at patient demographics and it stated female. I had such a confused look-nothing surprises me anymore after that.

  59. Annette Cox

    Many yrs ago I had a dementia resident who was “pregnant” every day. She had maternity clothes,pillow under her top….would walk the halls with one hand on her back proclaiming “Todays the day and no more babies” at 8 pm she would go into labor and I’d go in and deliver a bouncing Cabbage patch doll. In her real life she was the mother of 12! Her family was great,she had a pvt room and her kids had set up a little nursery……We had a stash of Cabbage Patch dolls in our nurses conference room so we would grab one on our way to deliver. She would be the proud mommy and SWEAR if her husband touched her again she’d kill him
    Come the next day pregnant again……when her health started failing the “pregnancies” stopped. All 12 of her kids,their spouses and MANY grandchildren were around her bed as she passed. The love in that room was so powerful. All the nurses received a Cabbage Patch doll that we had “delivered”

  60. oseipoku

    I remember a guardian approached me and said the cydrincal drug to insert into my child’s anus I was given, I think I put it into a different canal(the child was a female)

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