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“Oops” moments nurses hate to admit!

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Have you ever screwed up royally? Yep. So has every experienced nurse. Let’s admit it, sometimes we nurses make mistakes.

In some cases, those mistakes can be serious, causing harm to the patient or the nurse herself.

However, sometimes the mistake only causes a momentary loss of pride. Our readers have supplied a list of 10 “oops” moments that are sure to make you cringe and/or laugh in sympathy.

  1. Sleeping on the job can be hazardous to your health. One nurse observed a night shift coworker sleeping at the desk. In her sleep, she leaned out of the chair and fell on the floor. She was hurt, but you can bet she had a hard time explaining how she managed that injury!
  1. One nurse smacked her head on the glass door of the medication administration machine, and she was out for two months with concussion symptoms. Maybe we need nursing caps to return…for our own safety.
  1. A nurse was working in an ICU unit and assisting a doctor with inserting a tracheostomy. When the passageway opened up, the patient shot bloody sputum all the way to the foot of the bed, covering the nurse from ears to waist in slime.
  1. While emptying Foley bags, a nurse managed to spill a whole liter of urine down her leg and into her sock and shoe. It still makes her shiver to this day.
  1. Cell phones aren’t allowed on many nursing floors, and for lots of good reasons. One nurse placed her cell phone in her breast pocket because she didn’t have any other place available. While bending over a full bedpan, the cell phone slipped out of the pocket and into the pan, filled with #1 and #2.
  1. No nurse—or patient!—likes the smell of Mucomyst. One nurse who had worked too many night shifts in a row accidentally injected 60cc of air into a vial of this vile stuff. The medication sprayed all over her, and the smell would not go away, even after a complete change of scrubs.
  1. One nurse was attempting to change a colostomy bag when it exploded all over her. The mess drenched her from head to toe and covered the patient. Yeah. BIG oops.
  1. New nurses often experience their fair share of oops moments. When an X-ray tech reported that a chest tube patient was trying to get out of bed, a new nurse sprinted down the hall to stop him. This was in the days of all white nursing dresses. She caught the patient, but both of them fell on the floor. When the rest of her help arrived at the door, they found the patient on top of the nurse, her dress hitched up around her waist and her black polka dot underwear showing.
  1. A nursing student decided to help out by removing a full bedpan from a patient’s bedside commode. The patient was angry and whipped her blanket onto the floor. The student didn’t see it, slid on the blanket and poured the bedpan all over her face and shoulders. Thank the Lord for Purell…she just about bathed in it to remove the nastiness.
  1. A respiratory tech got a little overexcited at a code. The nurses and doctor were working on the patient, completely in control, when the tech ran into the room, tripped and slid under the bed. The doctor, who was intubating the patient, called out, “Safe!” as the rest of the room cracked up.

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Lynda Lampert

Lynda Lampert is a registered nurse and a certified third shift worker. She has worked with many different patient populations, including post-op open heart, post-op gastric bypass, active chest pain, congestive heart failure, poorly controlled diabetics and telemetry 'wonders'. She now focuses all of her effort on educating the populace -- both the nursing world and the normal folk -- through her web writing. She hopes one day to publish another romance novel, travel to England and become a web rock star. She feels she is on her way . . . mostly. You can learn more about Lynda and her work at lyndalampert.com.
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8 Responses to “Oops” moments nurses hate to admit!

  1. Any moment that includes bodily fluids on a nurse’s person just absolutely makes me cringe. At least those opps moments make great stories later!

  2. neonghost7 Student

    This didn’t happen to me but I witnessed it. Where I work (group home based health care for individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities) we tend to get a lot of RNs who look down on the DSAs. One day at the house I work at I had an RN in to give medication rights to another staff. This new RN had told other staff that had been working with these clients for 15+ years that they were ‘dumb’ ‘stupid’ ‘r*tarded’ and so on. The particular client she was demonstrating a med pass on had a g-tube. This little lady can definitely be a pill when she wants to. She had been force vomiting all morning and tensing up her stomach. I knew that giving her any fluids was going to be a challenge as she was probably going to tense up and force the meds back into the syringe. I tell this RN that she should probably use a little soda to dissolve any clogs before she tries. The RN tells me that the soda is a bad idea, it’ unhealthy, and that as she is the only one with a nursing license she knows what she is doing more than I do. I watch her put the syringe in the tube opening and pour in about 45 ml of her medication. Nothing happens. Then the client starts to tense and the meds start coming up the syringe. She puts the plunger at the end and decided that it would be a good idea to push the meds in with the plunger. The double force from her pushing and the client pushing cause all the meds, stomach goo, and half digested Jevity to come spewing out of the second opening right on the RN. In her face, hair, body, and all over the floor. The RN has since cooled her jets and tends to listen to the DSA that have been here for a while now.

  3. cheriv

    as a new RN I was hanging my 2nd unit of blood, only to spike it with the blood bag hanging,,a little bit dripped from the tubing on the floor, I took a wet paper towel to wipe it up only to have it make a bigger mess,,not wanting anyone to see my mistake I worked so fast and the mess kept getting bigger and bigger….UGH!! I did get it cleaned up before anyone saw! Lesson Learned, never hang blood from hanging bag, Never try to clean up blood with wet paper towels!!,,and most of all,,Just ask for help… ;)

  4. Sproch66

    And then there’s the moment I transferred my patient from ER to ICU and bent down to plug in bed and raised up and hit monitor, knocked myself out. Pretty bad when you wake up to patient peering over bed, calling someone to help! ^sigh

  5. amhrn97

    I was working with another RN who was about 9 months pregnant. She dropped a restoril in a patient room. I got down on the floor and looked under the bed, and under the chair. Those rooms had those TVs which were on swing arms and I stood up and cracked my head on it so hard, I saw stars. I had a huge goose egg on the back of my head.

    I had a little old lady one night in the ICU and leaving her room I didn’t realize I was caught in the IV tubing. I tripped and fell on the IV tubing and all my co workers came running thinking the patient fell. Nope just me. The patient was so afraid I had hurt myself. I was just glad I didn’t pull out her IV.

  6. trishlittle54@gmail.com

    One of my worst OOPs moments… assisting at a resus in trauma on an old man who had been attacked with a panga (machette) ane his head was split open… I fetlt a warm sticky feeling on my feet (I was in clogs with no sox) and when I looked down I saw it was his brains…… I had to stay in that position for a while until the doctor called the resus – boy, I soaked my feet in several buckets of hibiscrub!

  7. Margaret Wallace

    I once was assigned to do a surgical prep (shave) on a young teenager.This was back in the old days,before one day surgery.The girl was admitted the night before the procedure.I entered the room,intoduced myself and told the young girl seated between the two beds that I was here to shave her for tomorrow’s surgery. She looked astonished and shaking her head,grabbed her throat.This prompted me to look at my notes and realize,this was the roommate who was scheduled for a tonsillectomy the next day.The intended patient was out roaming the halls.I’ll never forget the look on that patient’s face…priceless!!

  8. libbystring

    I am a night shift nurse in a Neuro ICU. One night I was caring for a patient who was paralyzed from the neck down . As I was trying to get the patients medications from the in room medprox the sliding door became jammed because I had accidentally gotten the cord for our patient scanner stuck in the door. I was trying to pry the door open and was basically using my full weight to pull against the door when all the sudden the door just gives and comes flying open. I was not prepared for this sudden change in resistance and went flying along with the door onto the floor underneath the computer with a huge crash. The poor patient couldn’t see any of it and just heard the crash. He called out from the bed asking if everything was okay. I was really embarrassed and didn’t want to alarm him so I just responded that everything was fine, nothing to worry about. Unfortunately during my fall I twisted my knee rather badly and had trouble getting up. I found out later I had torn my meniscus in the fall and would need surgery. I still get made fun of weekly for this one by my co-workers. One of them still tries to put a fall risk band on me every once in a while.