Graveyard Shift

Medical Professionals Describe The Worst Mistakes They’ve Made Or Seen

For some, doctors are the closest thing to gods on Earth. They cure our illnesses, fix our limbs, diagnose our maladies, and save our hearts - if not our souls. But doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals aren't infallible. They're human beings who sometimes make mistakes - though their errors often have more sobering consequences when compared to other occupations. Some errors are so serious that they lead to unnecessary pain, major unplanned surgery, a stay in an intensive care unit, or even death.

Reddit stories from doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other medical professionals reveal the kind of mishaps - most are accidental - that harm rather than help patients. From mixing up medications to missing or misdiagnosing symptoms, these stories are a reminder that medical professionals aren't perfect.

  • ER Doctor Missed A GSW

    From Redditor /u/disposable_h3r0:

    A guy was dumped off at the ER covered in blood after a rap concert. We were all focused on a [GSW] with an arterial bleed that was distracting. The nurse placed the blood pressure cuff over the [hit] arm. We all missed it because the blood pressure cuff slowed the bleeding.

    I was doing the secondary assessment when we rolled the patient, and I still missed it.

    We didn't find it till the chest X-ray. The bullet [was] in the posterior portion of the thoracic wall without significant trauma to major organs.

    The patient lived. But I still feel like I f*cked up big time.

  • Pathologist Almost Infected Himself With HIV

    From a former Redditor:

    Pathologist here. Biggest mistake I ever made was cutting myself during an autopsy on an HIV patient. Lucky for me, I did not acquire the virus, so everything had a happy ending. (For me, anyway.)

  • Surgeon Told The Wrong Families About Their Babies 

    From Redditor /u/AndromedaStain:

    My brother is a surgeon, and during part of his residency, he had to work in the pediatric unit. He was working with two newborns. One was getting much better and fighting for life. He was going to make it just fine. The other baby was hours from [passing]. He wasn't going to make it. My brother was in charge of informing the families.

    My brother realized about 15 minutes later that he had mixed up the families. He told the family with the healthy baby that their baby wasn't going to make it, and he told the family with the dying baby that their baby was going to be just fine. He then had to go back out to the families and explain the situation to them.

    How devastating. To be given a glimmer of hope and have it ripped away from you not even an hour later. That was most upset I've heard my brother. He felt destroyed.

  • This 'Scratch' Wasn't What It Seemed

    From Redditor /u/pause_and_consider:

    I'm a nurse, but I was working in the ER when a guy came in for a scratch on his neck and "feeling drowsy." We start the usual workups and this dude's blood pressure TANKED. We scrambled, but he [perished] within 10 minutes of walking through the door.

    Turns out the "scratch" was an exit wound of a .22-caliber rifle round. The guy didn't even know he'd been [hit].

    When the coroner's report came back, we found that he'd been [struck] in the leg and the bullet tracked through his torso shredding everything in between. There was really nothing we could've done, but that was a serious "what the f*ck just happened" moment.