We’ve all had our share of funny miscommunications with patients and co-workers. Our readers shared some of their favorite communication mix-ups. Take a look and enjoy the humor, but don't forget to add your own funny miscommunication in the comments section below.
- My husband’s told the doctor he eats Animal Crackers for a snack. The endocrinologist seriously responded: What kind of animal? --Patricia
- What was I thinking when I told the elderly gentleman “we are now going to take off our pants and I’m going to get you in bed." --Dianne
- I had a Hispanic male patient who tried to teach me a few words of Spanish. I practiced and practiced. Hours later when it was snack time, I proudly entered his room holding a tray with snacks. In front of his whole family, I asked him “Leche con Pero?” I was convinced I was offering him milk and cookies, when, in fact, his entire family busted up with giggles. They told me I really asked him if he wanted ” milk with a dog!” Thank goodness they had a sense of humor! --Cathi
- I was having routine labwork done. The phlebotomist set the urine cup on the counter. She said to me ” I need you to pee in that cup”. I said “what? from here”? --Fred
- Once I was explaining discharge instructions to a new Mom and Dad which had included, no sex for six to eight weeks. The Dad looked aghast and said, “no sex for dirty eight weeks?!” I re-explained and we all had a chuckle. --Sari
- I just had a rather strong memory one of the first times in my ER that I had to take telephone orders from an admitting doc with a heavy accent and a tongue that I always imagined was far too large to fit in his mouth. He always sounded like Marlon Brando’s Godfather, but worse.
After going over a long list of meds, the doc said “And anal sex”
Me, confused: “Excuse me, sir…”
Him, louder: “anal sex”
Me, incredulous: “I’m so sorry doctor, can you repeat that?”
Him, almost screaming: “40 milligrams anal sex”
Me, trying to keep my cool: “Please spell that, sir…” (I don’t know whether to be confused or really offended, it’s 4am and I have five patients that all want something, and I am sure he could hear frustration in my voice)
Him, screaming at this point: “L-A-S-I-X”
Me: “Ohhhh, and a lasix. 40mg of Lasix, Got it” --Jaelann
- While taking care of a gentleman who had undergone a stroke, my CNA and I had boosted him up in his bed to a seated position. He held a tennis ball in his right hand for squeezing in order to strengthen his weakened grip. His speech was also effected and he kept mumbling something that sounded like “my ball…my ball”. I encouraged him, “Yes, your ball in your hand, keep squeezing it so your grip will get stronger”. He spoke louder, “MY BALL”. Then I realized he was referring not to his tennis ball but to his testicle he was sitting on after we had pulled him up in his bed! We quickly remedied the situation with apologies. --Jamie
- One morning, a patient called me in to ask for a different aid to be assigned to her. The aid on duty was as sweet and accommodating as you could imagine. Always smiling and friendly and I asked why the patient wanted to change…. The patient said “She is such a dirty girl. Every morning she comes into my room, squats down and peas on the floor.” It only took me a moment to realize that the aid was squatting down each morning to empty the patient’s foley catheter… --Bonny
- I had a foreign doctor once tell me on the phone to give his patient a tavin. After the third repeat, I asked him to spell it…a_t_i_v_a_n ! --Joan
- One of my favorite dialysis patients who spoke with a soft little southern accent, said to me one day….”why I would never take those genetic drugs, they are not the same as the invented ones”. I just smiled and explained that “generics” would not be given if they were not going to work the same as the brand name, if that were the case we could insist on name brands. She missed my correction of the pronunciation, and was overhead telling her daughter what I had said about the “genetic drugs” only being used if they would do that same thing in her body. We did have a chuckle at the nurses station when I announced I might consider some “Genetic drugs” if it meant I get a better metabolism, long legs, and great teeth. --Lora
Do you have your own funny miscommunication story? Share in the comments section below.
As a student nurse many many moons ago I was told to clean all the thermometers there was one in a holder at the head of each bed, I talking over 40 years ago…. so student nurse me…. took all the glass mercury thermometers and well… Boling water kills germs right…. well in a stainless steel dish 50 thermometers under the water boiler … smashed glass and mercury…. can’t really repeat what the charge nurse called me!!!!
I asked a patient when is your baby due, she asked me several times to repeat the questions, I have an accent and apparently difficult to understand? The patient got very mad looking and yelled at me, my baby is not a jew???? So sorry …..
When I was in nursing school, and had just started clinicals, my instructor asked me to go around and collected all the stools. I went to each room and could not find any. I went back to my instructor and stated, What do you need with a stool, I can’t find any step stools anywhere.
I was suctioning my patient and the vent kept alarming so the family ask what’s wrong what’s wrong… and I said don’t worry he is just choking. The family said what ?!!?? I was like oh my goodness sorry I meant he is coughing just coughing .. me working three days in a row 😂😂😂…. shai
During sports physicals of young male patients, I usually step behind the curtain to give them a sense of privacy during the hernia exam. Although I have full view of the physician, I find it makes them less anxious during the exam. One particular busy day, not only at work, but my in my personal life as well, my PCM and myself prepared for an exam. I stepped behind the curtain and she asked the 17y/o male to pull down his pants. From behind the curtain comes a “Whoo Hoo” The patient starts to laugh. My PCM says”OMG, Val u are killing me” I am completely mortified. I apologize and explain, this is what happens when one is having a conversation in their own head.
Years ago we used to keep patient charts in a cabinet outside of their hospital room. Family members would often sneak a peek to see what doctors and nurses had written. I had a gentleman with respiratory issues and I had charted that he was SOB. The patients wife looked in his chart, saw that, and immediately confronted me. She was so angry that I’d had the nerve to call her husband an SOB, and “even though he could be” I had no right to put that in his chart! She was mortified when I explained that it meant “short of breath.”
As a home care nurse I was asked to go out to a client who was recently discharged from a local hospital with phlebitis. When I arrived, the lady said all she needed was the number of a good exterminator. She angrily stated,”I will give the bill to the neighbor-they are the ones with the dog that gave me this damn “Flea-bite -us”.
As is the case with many nurses, I have worked in a variety of settings. As a triage nurse, I had one male patient who announced he had problems with his “prostrate”. When asked how he knew he had these problems, he said he could “see it.” It turned out he had bladder incontinence issues. As a home health nurse, I asked a lovely elderly patient what color her urine was…she replied “green”. I had to think for a moment, then I realized that the toilet cleaner she used was the blue kind that kept the toilet water blue… when she voided the water turned green.
I’d had a very long 12 hour shift in the ICU and was getting out late. One of my patients was intubated and had tons of secretions. She also had horrible diarrhea that just wouldn’t quit. It felt like I was constantly changing the pads or sheets. Multi-tasking as always, I was trying to write my chart notes while also on the phone communicating with a physician. When I read what I’d written I had to laugh…. I’d written, “Suctioning large amounts of liquid brown stool from ET tube”….. ooooh, that’s a new version of pulmonary toilet.
I am a CDE who works with the Pediatic population. Trying to draw an 8 year old boy to be involved in the visit, I asked him where he got his shots. He responded quite proudly most of the times in the bathroom but sometimes the kitchen. His mother and I laughed so hard we were crying. Found out I needed to be far more specific in my line of questioning.
That is funny!
Once, I had to give discharge instructions to a patient whom I was told only spoke Spanish. After carefully reading and explaining everything as best as i could about the return PKU test the patient replied in perfect English “Can I get that done at the base?” I was in the wrong room! It was the end of my shift so hopefully the next nurse was able to find the right room.
I came in at 7am, received report and started to care for the patients. I read the note from the night nurse for a patient sitting OOB. It read “patient placed in an electric chair”. Started my day off with a chuckle.
An 88 year old lady was asked for a urine sample. She looked at me with all sincerity and said, “The doctor hasn’t given it to me yet.”
We had this male patient who had been scheduled for a urological procedure and when we got ready to put the dressing on, the doctor who spoke very little English, said I need a coutex… or so I thought, so I asked again thinking he was asking for some type of Coudeau Catheter. He said the same thing again raising his voice. I said please spell it. He said KOTEX. Geeze who would have thought it??
I was working as a community health nurse in Improved Pregnancy Outcome. My Spanish language skills left a lot to be desired. I knocked on the door, and a man answered. In my best Spanish, I thought I said that I was the Public Health Nurse here to visit the patient’s name. The door slammed. When I went back to the office, I related back what I had said. Turned out I had said that I was the public sperm!
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