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You did what? (Or, the weirdest injuries my coworkers and I have sustained)


Hemera + iStockphoto | Thinkstock

There’s a lot of talk about how nursing is hard on your body. It’s true: Nursing can be very hard on your back (especially), your hips (secondarily), your arms (oh Lord, let’s not even talk about it) and even your neck. Feet are an entirely different subject, and one that deserves its own book. I’m not going to bore you with statistics about how lift teams can make all the difference in keeping nurses healthy, or how nice it is to have a Hoyer on every floor—oh no. I’m here to tell you stories, my Chickadees, of the most amazingly random things I’ve ever seen anybody, including myself, do.

1. I won’t even mention the time I walked into a room that had fresh (and very slippery) stripper on the floor, and how I skated on one foot and, with arms flailing, right into the lap of my patient. Nice way to put down warning cones there, floor guys.

2. One of my coworkers once broke two toes by dropping an IV pump on her foot. This doesn’t sound so crazy until you learn that the IV tubing was still in the pump and the pump was still in use on a patient. At least the pump was cushioned enough by her feet that none of the alarms went off.

3. Another person I know (cough, cough) had several chunks of ponytail pulled out when she walked into the MRI room, having removed all metallic articles from her person except for the barrette holding back her ponytail. There’s a reason I rock a pixie cut now: Barrettes can lift and rotate in a truly astounding manner.

4. Another coworker dropped her beeper into the toilet by mistake, flushed without realizing it, then sprained her ankle trying to get out of the bathroom as the toilet overflowed. It was a long time before we let her forget that.

5. Once, a brand-new nurse I worked with had, for some reason, taken the top and foil cover off of a bottle of tube feeding…and then dropped the bottle. It was like something out of a horror movie, seeing the ProCal fountain up out of the bottle and cascade over her. We had to find a pair of shoes for her in the lost-and-found after she changed from the skin out. It wasn’t an injury, except maybe to her dignity.

6. There was the time that another nurse and I were hauling a patient back from testing on a stretcher. We lost the stretcher at the top of a very long, very gently sloping ramp with a 90-degree turn at the end, and had to chase it frantically in order to catch it before it, and the patient, hit the wall. Again, no harm done to anything but our pride (the patient was sedated).

7. Less amusingly, back in the olden days when we still had chart racks, a friend of mine had a chart rack fall over on her. She, thank Heaven, was unharmed—but the resident who flew to her side and dug her out from under the charts was Our Hero for several days thereafter.

8. In the Unfortunate Accidents to Clothing department, how about these?

> A nurse of my acquaintance once got her scrub pants caught in a continuous-passive-motion machine she was storing away in a utility room. The pants tore, spectacularly and irreparably, when she tried to walk away.

> Or the nurse who discovered that Domeboro solution will indeed bleach clothing if you leave it on too long.

> Or the nurse who discovered (again, cough, cough) exactly why more experienced nurses never stand at the foot of the bed of a patient with a fresh tracheotomy.

9. None of these nurse-accidents match what happened to a doctor friend of mine, now a seasoned and well-respected surgeon, back when I was a new nurse and he was a fresh-faced resident:

A patient coded. He, being the tallest guy in the room and thus having the best reach, started compressions on that patient. He had underslept that morning and so perhaps didn’t tie the drawstrings of his scrubs tightly enough—his pants came down about 30 seconds into his compressions.

And, of course, you can’t stop doing compressions to yank up your pants, even if you are wearing Batman boxer shorts.

The patient lived. The doctor almost didn’t. Be careful out there, people!

Agatha Lellis
Agatha Lellis is a nurse whose coffee is brought to her every morning by a chipmunk. Bluebirds help her to dress, and small woodland creatures sing her to sleep each night. She writes a monthly advice column, "Ask Aunt Agatha," here on Scrubs; you can send her questions to be answered at

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