Graveyard Shift

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

Stefanie Hammond
Updated February 12, 2019 191.4k views 24 items

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.

back to page 1
OB-GYN's Outburst Made A Mother Panic

From Redditor /u/monstercello:

Not me, but my mom. She just retired as an OB-GYN and told me about a time early on in her career when, while not a real medical mistake, she still almost ruined the operation. She was performing a C-section, I think, and dropped her scalpel on the floor. Before she could think, she blurted out, "Oh sh*t," as a reaction.

The mother, thinking something was wrong with the baby, started panicking. It took a team of nurses, the husband, and the mother of the patient to calm her down.

Nurse's Medication Error Almost Ended A Postpartum Patient 

From Redditor /u/footprintx:

When I was a student rotating through OB-GYN, I wrote an order for a woman's postpartum continuation of magnesium sulfate... I was super careful, because I knew what could happen with magnesium toxicity, and double-checked the order with the resident afterwards.

The nurse, instead of hanging one bag of mag-sulfate and another of I forget what, hung two bags of mag-sulfate, one of which she slammed into the patient over a minute, instead of slow-infusing over 12 hours.

The woman told the nurse she didn't feel right, and the nurse pooh-poohed it. I happened to be walking by, and stopped in to see what was up. There they were, two bags hanging, both marked in a bright red warning label. We called for the fast-response team.

They, and my team, got there in time and took over, but she still went into respiratory depression and ended up in the ICU.

We all make mistakes, some of which are dangerous. I've absolutely made my fair share. I've missed diagnoses, or tried to save patients from a trip to the ER, and they've ended up in the ER anyway, just later. As long as you recognize your mistake and make an effort to improve afterwards, and it wasn't too neglectful/egregious, I understand.

But I reamed the nurse when I overheard her laughing about the incident like she hadn't just almost [terminated] someone. I don't know what she thought, getting told off by a rotating student, but I was [angry] at the time.

Pharmacists Gave A Patient Too Much Prozac

From Redditor /u/chucktpharmd:

Worked with a pharmacist back in the mid 2000s when I was still a tech who filled a script for Prozac solution. (Concentrated, it is 20 mg per mL. Average adult dose is 20 mg.) Instead of 1 mL once daily, he filled it for one teaspoonful (5 mL).

The child got serotonin syndrome and almost [passed]. [The pharmacist] is no longer working to my knowledge.

Exhausted Doctor Collapsed The Wrong Lung 

From Redditor /u/Rowley058:

My parents are nurses. They knew a doc who'd been on a 36-hour shift. Patient came in with a punctured lung (I think) and the doc had to collapse the lung to fix whatever was wrong with it.

Through tiredness, he collapsed the wrong lung, and the patient [perished]. Doc ended up [taking his own life] after being fired.

Don't burn yourself out.