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

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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!

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

  1. Norma R.N.

    I always worked nights and there was one nurse that was always falling alseep on the job well she fell out of the chair as I held back the laughter I realized she was hurt, hurt on the job hmmm wondered how she ever got workmans’s comp for that one!

  2. shirley bosse

    I think (maybe), I would like to know why experienced nurses do not stand at the foot of the bed of a patient with a fresh tracheotomy.

    • Debi

      I was working in the ICU of a local hospital as a CNA while in nursing school. I stood at the end of the bed while the MD was performing the tracheotomy…I had blood spatter from neck to waist! When that first breath in and out happen through that hole, WATCH OUT!!!

    • Anita Valentine

      Do you have any idea how far and forceful bloody sputum can fly?

    • kariano

      There is alot of extra fluid, and secretions, in a fresh trach. and one cough you will be slimed!

  3. Maria Torculas

    Someone accidentally bumped their head on the glass door of the supply pyxis when it opened and was out for 2 months with a concussion!

  4. susan rn

    to shirley bosse: INCOMMING!!!!

  5. Michelle

    This isn’t so much an injury to my person as to my pride; but as a brand new grad some 26 years ago, I was going around emptying Foley bags at end of shift. For reasons still unknown, I managed to dump one litre of multi-patient urine down my ankle and into my shoe. I will never forget it… (shiver)

    • Laura S

      Wonderful feeling eh? When I was in high school I used to volunteer at a local hospital. One day I was feeding an elderly gentleman some apple juice when he suddenly peed on my foot. wouldn’t do much to me now…but I was around 15 at the time and died a million plus one teenaged deaths. To this day I cannot drink apple juice. 😀

  6. Jill

    Once as a new nurse I was waiting for some urgent news in my personal life so I wanted to keep my cell phone in my pocket. But I was wearing one of those useless scrub tops with only one breast pocket, no lower ones, so my cell phone was in that pocket. . .In short, I was about to empty a bedpan I had set down after cleaning the patient and my cell phone spilled into the full bedpan… yep- it was full of #1’s AND a #2. . . not proud of that one!

  7. Coby

    While doing travel nursing I always worked 6 12hr night shifts in a row…night 6 was always an adventure in ridonk. One night 6 I unthinkingly injected 60cc air into a HUGE vial of Mucomyst…before reading “Do not insert air, open vial HERE”.

    Shower of Mucomyst over my face, hair, scrubs…even after getting new scrubs from the house sup I could be smelled down the hall.

  8. Ren

    My first day of clinicals, in my crisp, very clean new white uniform, I stepped back in a resident’s room and rubbed up against the bedside commode. I got poop on the back of my pants leg and didn’t know until my instructor pointed it out. It was a running joke all throughout nursing school.

    • Debi

      Nothing like taking off a colostomy appliance to change it and have poop explode all over you and then run all the way down to the patient’s feet!

      • Pamela Rossano

        that happened to me whe I was told to put in a rectal tube after someone had given the pt. and SSE and had left alot of soap behind. What a mess

  9. Beth Kennedy

    One day at a hospital that I worked at, a nurse who at the time we didn’t know had a drug problem, was orientating another nurse. They had went to the basement of the hospital for something, and the nurse who was orientating the new nurse, had a grand mal seizure, right outside the morgue. That new nurse was utterly traumatized..but he survived.

  10. Laura S

    In the days of white uniforms, I once reached above a patient’s flowers to get the vital signs clip board off the wall only to discover that there were Lillies hidden in the flowers. I had to wear a johnny shirt the rest of the day to cover the 4″ diameter bright yellow pollen smudge on my right boob. Then there was the nurse who struggled to open an NG cannister (pressurized of course) only to have it do so with explosive decompression. She was covered in bile. Happily we both survived. :)

  11. Sarah

    One night in NICU, a baby boy peed a large amt of urine directly into my eye. The infant’s mother had a drug-using past, so I was whisked off to the ER where they flushed out my eye with 2 large IV bags of NS. The baby & I both had to be stuck & blood drawn to rule out blood-borne diseases.

  12. Jenna

    One of the Dr’s on call fell out of a tree about an hour after delivering a baby. (never mind what he was doing in a tree) Did he have a radio-ulnar or tib-fib fracture? Or a spinal cord injury? Oh no, he ended up with an open pelvic fracture that required blood transfusions & transfer to a tertiary care hospital almost 200 miles away…….

  13. Nan

    About 35 years ago, during morning port, a lab tech came to the report room to report that Mt. X had gotten out of bed and was trying to get to the chair. He had a chest tube in, and the drainage apparatus was taped to the floor. Me, being the youngest, sprinted out of the report room, down the hall, and reached the patient just in time to catch him and we both fell, with me underneath. Right after we landed on the floor, everyone else arrived at the door, and one by one, they started to laugh. This was in the day of wearing uniform dresses, slips and pantyhose, and I happened to have on purple polkadot underwear which was clearly in view- because as I fell, my uniform developed a mind of it’s own and bunched up around my waist!!!!
    The patient was fine, the chest tube remained in place, and I was blushing in embarassment for about 5 days everytime someone brought up the flying nurse!!!!!

  14. Stella T

    As a nursing student, I was emptying a bedside commode. The patient was upset about something and threw her blanket on the floor just as I walking by. My foot got tangled in it and as I was falling, I got soaked in urine from my face down to my toes. Ran to the staff bathroom and practically showered in Purell. When I came home I stayed in the shower and scrubbed myself till I was all pruney.

  15. When I was a nursing student I took a job during the summer out of state and lived with the director of nursing. She told about an MD who came in for a middle of the night code in the ER. The patient was not responding to compressions so his next step was to defibrilate. He called for everyone to “clear”. What he didn’t realize in his half asleep state, was that when he ran up to the patient’s side he positioned himself with the patient’s hand between his legs. They cleared, shocked and the team had to finish the code without him!

  16. amanda R

    While I was backing a patient through her doorway in a wheelchair, I rolled over my baby toe with the rear anti tippers. I ended up having to go to the er with a broken toe. That patient still cracks a joke everytime she sees me.

  17. Jeanne Vacca

    The Nursing home a patient came from neglected to tell us he was violent.The security guard backed out of the way just in time for me to get my hand twisted and kicked in both knees.This happened in 2008.I had my right knee replaced in 10/09 and am recovering from my left knee replacement on 7/11/11.The hospital tried to fire me after this,but I resigned instead.It isn’t funny,and it is true.Please be careful out there.

    • Granny RN

      They tried to fire YOU for getting injured? I should have been a lawyer…

  18. wahela

    One of the nurses I was orienting to the floor went with me into the isolation room, with a trach patient with respiratory MRSA. I told her to wear a cap, along with the gown, face mask and gloves, but she didn’t think she’d need one. About half way to the bed, the patient hawked a big green sputum and it landed in this nurses hair. She’s freaking out and I’m spraying her hair with virex. She should have taken notice of the green splotches on the wall next to the door. She didn’t last long as a nurse there. I always hoped it wasn’t my help showing her around that did it. Most people can’t stand sputum or mucous. I took care of this patient for over 6 months before she expired. I can handle any body fluid mess.

    • jujusma

      Me too! I’m just spineless when I have to inflicting pain or fear.

  19. amyd

    I have been an LPN for 3 years. When there is an emergency situation, as all nurses know you just jump up & take action! I have not been hurt on the job but…..this past summer while playing with my kids at the park, I fell and broke my ankle. I laid there on the ground for over 20 minutes like nothing was wrong! Finally my daughter said dont you think we should call dad & get you some help? Thats the 1st time I understood what I had heard other nurses saying……you are always taking care of other people and their families, you tend to neglect yourself! I really just thought it was no big deal! I couldn’t even walk!!

  20. jonoe

    You know the nursing urban legend about the nurses trying to pull a pt up in bed and slipping on urine on the floor and slipping under the bed? It’s true. I did it, except one leg was bent under me, one under the bed and my scrubs soaked with urine from the floor. Luckily, no broken bones and no concussion, but everything else was bruised.

    Also, as a nursing student I learned a very valuable lesson. If you have a war veteran, make a lot of noise as you go into the room and don’t try to quietly wake them up at the side of the bed. I’d never been in a choke hold against the wall before or since.

  21. Granny RN

    We had a very ‘gung-ho’ resp. therapy tech-one of those guys who claimed to have ‘been there, done that’ all the way from serving in the Civil War to walking on the moon. Ya’ll know the type.
    One morning, we were beginning a rather unspectacular Code when this tech, running at full speed so as not to miss anything, ran into the room and promptly SLID UNDER THE BED!
    The doctor at the head of the bed who was performing the intubation stopped, looked, and with great aplomb, threw both arms straight out like an umpire and shouted ‘He’s SAFE!’.

  22. Pamela Rossano

    When I was very huried before their were syringe boxes in every rm I had recapped a needle and was going to the bathroom and the needle cap came off and stuck me in the butt> never told that story>
    Also whe we were busy and needed a stretcher and i was working an off shift as I was cleaning the stretcher I released the side rail and knocked myself silly>

  23. kjmctrn

    Imagine you are 8 1/2 months pregnant. At your last OB appointment the practitioner tells you the baby is feet first and if he doesn’t turn by the next visit you may be heading for a C-Section. The next day, in the med room, you are mixing a med and you drop the syringe/needle-you don’t hear it drop….then you look down….you could do your own amnio….

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  26. Bri

    As a labor and delivery RN I have had my share of injuries, but the worst was a rotator cuff tear that I didn’t notice until after helping a 350lb mom push for 3 hours and deliver her bundle of joy, I couldn’t move my right arm to chart and had to have surgery after an MRI showed the lovely tear. To add insult to injury my ortho doc was in disbelief that a nurse could do anything so physical as to cause this extent of an injury, after I retold my story he just shook his head and said he never realized how hard some nurses work. Really?

  27. iluvbturducken

    I was once transferring a patient from her Geri chair into bed using a hoyer lift. She was an Alzheimer’s patient who would flail around violently whenever we transferred her, and one time her butt actually began to slide out of the hoyer sling. Fortunately she was right next to the bed so I just had to lift her butt up to get it over the bed rails and get her safely into bed. Well in the process the hoyer lift became unbalanced and ended up tipping over and pinning on top of the patient. My partner had to unhook the sling in order to upend the lift and get me unpinned. I was greatful that my body cushioned the patient from harm, however I suffered some pretty nasty scrapes and bruises. Oh and on a lighter note I once had my scrub pant split open when I was bending down to take a patients shoes off. Needless to say, the male patient thought it was hilarious.

  28. BeehitchRN

    I once had a (not so nice) trauma surgeon cuss me in front of a totally conscious, alert and oriented pt because the chest tube set up (which all of the supplies were present and opened all he had to do was walk in and wash his hands) was not to his liking. Well after he discovered that everything was there and where its supposed to be, he proceeded to insert the tube. The tubing was wrapped around the bedrail so I attempted to gently bring the stretcher rail up to get it untangled and smacked him in his man parts. Definitely not on purpose, but he hasn’t cussed at me since :)

  29. jujusma

    While trying to introduce a teen to his temporary stoma, he kept dropping the mirror. I finally looked at him to see a tear roll out. I apologized, excused myself and searched frantically for a chair in a busy hall. I was blacking out. I ran about 30 feet to the nrs station and dove for a chair, only I was out before I sat. Instead, took a header into the counter. Woke up in ER and told doc what happened. He replied, “Yep, empathetic syncope” while closing my scalp.

  30. Okstudentnurse

    My first job in a hospital as a CNA I had my almost waist length hair in a ponytail. I was helping clean up a GI bleed patient as we turn the patient and I lean over to clean his bottom my hair falls forward right into the massive amount of bloody stool. Needless to say I was in to get a haircut on my next day off.

  31. nightowl07

    I had a service user found underneath stairs tangled in hoists stand aids you name it (constant wonderer) I proceeded to check he was ok next thing I know I woke up in the back off an ambulance being blues and two’s to hospital with a bad concussion the night remains a mystery I was however informed by staff on the Scene that my service user decided to open his eyes double barrel me in the chest wich made me crack my head off concrete stairs the service user apparently stood up laughed and casually walked off !!

  32. fulita

    I was at a delivery as the baby nurse, and the baby came out covered in meconium. As she handed me the baby the Dr started to slip so I had the baby almost thrown onto my neck and chest. As I stood there, looking a a limp, apenic, dusky baby, the only thought in my mind was that of “I have poop on my face.” (Baby was fine).

  33. autumnstarr708

    When I was going through nursing school, I was a CNA at a hospital. I am 5 feet tall. One day I was in a room with a male nurse who is well over 6 feet tall. He came up behind me to hang a tube feeding and spiked the bottle over my head, unfortunately he didn’t spike it correctly and the entire bottle emptied over my head. I have to work 11 more hours smelling and looking disgusting! and all he did was say “umm…what do i do now?” i was so mad then but we laugh about it every time we see each other now.

  34. Tinyprancer

    I had to float to a different floor one night, which ended up with me having to place a foley on a 300+ pound woman by myself. I ended up with a wrist sprain from having to hold her enormous folds apart! Definitely not my proudest moment, and one of my dumbest injuries.

    • dottyc

      guess you don’t like obese women I think you should have sleeked help ( I know everyone is short staffed) but maybe it would have been better on your wrist.

  35. Machelle Marlatt

    The weirdest injury I received while working was one of my CNAs was about to fall out. I attempted to ease her to the floor but didn’t make it she as taller and heavier than me. In the process she took me down hard with her and I was knocked against a filing cabinet obtaining a dislocated left shoulder. We both ended up in the ER. Note to self stand back. She was not injured in the fall. And was ok. It was high blood pressure and low blood sugar she was diabetic and had not date in a couple days.

  36. carolslee1949

    While working the night shift in a nursing home, I was sitting on a desk chair and bent over to get something out of my totebag. I realized, too late, that I was too far forward on the chair and it started to slip out from under me. I knew I was going to fall and attempted to spread the impact along the left forearm. Suddenly, almost like in slow motion, my left wrist started to swell. I had fractured the left wrist in 3 places, requiring an ORIF with a bone graft and a carpal tunnel repair for nerve damage. It wasn’t funny, but when the ER nurse asked what happened, I said I fell off of a chair. She said that, as a nurse, didn’t I know better than to stand on a chair. I then informed her I was sitting on the chair when I fell!

  37. Nurse Lemonhead

    A pt had a seizure in my clinic- flew out of a chair knocked into a wall, sink and was eventually pinned under the pt. I had a fractured pelvis, shoulder injury and a broken knee. Also in the process the pt bled all over me (bit her lip) and I was exposed to HIV and hep c… Long recovery!

  38. soon2beFNP15

    As brand new RN’s we were orienting to our new unit. One of the other new nurses was spiking her first bag of blood – of course wearing fresh crisp WHITE scrubs! I was standing down the hall, watched through the open door , in slow motion as she pushed the spike all the way through the bag, blood went everywhere! She looked like a scene out of Carrie. Had to take a shower to get all the blood out of her hair.

  39. soon2beFNP15

    I was sitting down charting, the phone was one chair over to my left ( secretary seat), well the phone rang and someone was standing in front of the phone and not paying attention. I leaned across to answer the phone and fell out of the chair right on to my bottom! All the while holding the phone handset up in the air and saying ” somebody answer the phone” and laughing. I wasn’t hurt badly, just bruised and embarrassed more than anything.

  40. dottyc

    looking and thinking about my coffee I slipped and sustained a compound halo fx of fib/tib and a broken ankle… my coffee went flying and all I could think of is Now I don’t have coffee……