Embarrassing Moments from the Medical Professions

True stories about things that health professionals have done, said, and/or witnessed.

embarrass: to cause to feel self-conscious, confused, and ill at ease; disconcert; fluster (Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition)
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This Is No Continental Breakfast

First day of nursing clinicals at the hospital, I was teamed up with another student to give a bed bath. We asked the patient how much of her bathing she would like assistance with and she replied “I can wash my face and what-not, but I need ya’ll to clean my biscuit”. We looked at each other wondering what in the world she meant by “biscuit”, then it hit us and we couldn’t help but laugh. To top it off when we were in the middle of her peri-care “biscuit bath”, she said “clean my biscuit like you clean YOUR biscuit!!”. LOL

Sage Advice to the Legless

When I was in nursing school another nursing student and I were giving our first bedbath to a patient that was a bilateral AKA.When we had finished his bath we pulled his sheet up and asked if he’d like his blanket as well. The patient said he didn’t care if we pulled the blanket up or not. My classmate covered him with the blanket saying if you don’t want it you can kick it off.


While orienting a new grad, I was observing her place a Foley on a male patient. She was set up ready to go had those huge gloves on that come in the kits and was cleaning the meatus when she looks at me and says “man these are huge”. I couldn’t hardly maintain myself in front of the patient. Later however, I told her I knew she was referring to the gloves but the patient didn’t have a clue what she was referring to. I figure it probably made his day.

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They Look Soooo Real!

No… this has nothing to do with plastic surgery (pervert). I’m a Physician Assistant for an open heart surgery program. I am primarily responsible for the workups before people go to the OR. As part of the workups, I have to check patients’ teeth before they have valve surgery – since bad teeth and gums can become a source of bacteremia.

Anyway, because of the timing of the transfers into our hospital, it is often quite late that I have to call the oral surgeon for a consult. And he lives about 40 minutes away.

The other night, I called him at about 6:30 PM, well after his office hours were over, for a patient with particularly disgusting teeth… They were broken, looked like they hadn’t been brushed in several months, with chunks and assorted color smudges all over them.

The oral surgeon obliged and came in that night for the consult… only to call me at around 8:00 to tell me that the guy had dentures. He said, “I came here to remove some teeth, do you want me to remove his dentures?”

No Inbreeding Jokes

While working as a nurse practitioner for a cardiology group, I was asked to obtain a history and physical on a patient being admitted for a cardiac catheterization. Everything was going smoothly. It felt as though there was good rapport. But the time had come to discuss family history. She proceeded to tell me about her husband’s medical conditions, but interrupted herself to say, “Oh! But he’s not a blood relative.”

With a smile I replied, “Unless you’re from West Virginia.”

Dead silence… All of the family members just looked at each other.

“Don’t tell me,” I said, “You’re from West Virginia.” She nodded slowly.

Still silent.

Know Your Anatomy

As a fourth year medical student on a psychiatry rotation, I was required to spend some time in the geriatric psch unit. One of the first patients I had to see required a rectal exam.

I entered the room, introduced myself, and performed a fairly complete history and physical exam. Then, I explained to the patient the reasons for the rectal exam and she agreed. I drew the curtain and began to do the exam. While unfastening the tape of the woman’s adult diaper, someone entered thz room and said, “Housekeeping! I’m just gonna get the trash.”

I kept on with the exam and readied the KY Jelly, only to find that the patient’s bottom was covered with stool. Rather than take the easy way out and just test a sample of stool, I proceeded to sift through stool until I could properly perform the exam.

My technique left a lot to be desired however, because I soon heard the patient scream, “Hey! You’re in the wrong hole!” Entirely embarrassed, I heme tested her stool, washed my hands and left, only to find the janitor outside of the room leaning on his cart laughing so hard he could barely get the words out, “You a’int married are ya buddy?”

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It was towards the end of my first year of my residency, so I was a seasoned veteran at having end-of-life talks. When I went into the TB isolation room and found Mr. Williams with the covers pulled up to the bridge of his nose, I knew it was time to have a heart-to-heart talk.

I started off by re-introducing myself and then followed with affirming the social isolation associated with HIV and now TB isolation. He concurred with a sigh and continued to keep the covers over half of his face. I gently proceeded to discuss the grim realities of end-stage AIDS with him. I mentioned that the frequency and types of opportunistic infections he was facing, combined with a CD4 count of 2, warrant a discussion about his life expectancy numbered in weeks-to-months rather than months-to-years. Mr. Williams said to me, “I hear ya.”

At that moment, a phlebotomist came in and said, “Mr. Jackson, I’m back to take some more blood.” To my horror, as he pulled his arm out from under the covers, his arm band confirmed it. This wasn’t Mr. Williams at all. I just told the wrong guy he was dying.

There’s Gotta Be A Rule Against That

I was a fourth year medical student doing a rotation at a Catholic hospital. It happened to be a Sunday when I was on-call. I went into a patient’s room to examine her. The room was a semi-private one, with a curtain between the two beds. I drew the curtain closed as the patient’s roommate was on the commode and I think all of us felt uncomfortable.

While listening to my patient’s lungs, I was interrupted by a priest who had come in to offer Communion. He saw me and said that he’d come back in a few minutes. He then proceeded to give Communion to my patient’s roommate while she was sitting on the commode.

Ooooo, That Must Hurt

As a pharmacist, I am often patients’ source of information about their medications. When one woman came to the pharmacy to get a refill on her suppositories, she asked me if I had any suggestions she could bring to her doctor. She said that the suppositories were not working. “And not only don’t they work, they hurt! Sometimes they even make me bleed!”

I looked at her prescription, pulled some suppositories from the shelf, and opened the box for her. She then showed me that the corners of the hard foil wrapper were sharp. Of course, I cringed when I realized that she was not removing the hard foil covers before inserting them.

The Doctor Told Me To Do It

I was a resident in my second year of training for Internal Medicine. I was on-call and spending much of my night in the ER doing admissions. Our seats for writing up the admission orders and notes were kind of situated in an area where patients and their family members would come up and ask questions.

One night in particular, I was near one of our ER physicians when he was giving out discharge instructions to someone he was sending home. He handed the paper to the patient. He was looking at the discharge instructions as the ER physician explained them.

The ER doc suddenly snatched the discharge paperwork from the patient and said, “Give me that.” He went back to his desk and started writing up another set. After the patient had left, the doc gave me a copy of the discharge paperwork. It read:

Discharge diagnosis = nephrolithiasis (kidney stones)
Discharge instructions = Drink plenty of urine

Of course, I copied the paper and shared it at morning report :)

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