10 Nurse Bloopers As Told By Nurses

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

We all know that to err is human, and can give us a chuckle in the meantime. And while it may be considered bad form to laugh at the mistakes of others, to do so makes us human too. Nurses are not above making bloopers once in a while, teaching them not only how to avoid them again in the future, but how to accept that they are never going to be perfect. None of the following bloopers in nursing care caused grave harm to any patient, but they all serve to teach nurses valuable lessons in patient care:

Be Careful With Mad Patients

One nurse recalls talking to a patient whose arms were tied down due to being combative. As she bent over to check on the wound site she was struck in the head by his leg with such force that she was knocked down to the floor.

Don’t Mess With the Equipment

A student working with a double amputee made the assumption that there was no need for leg rests on his wheelchair and took them off. We all know where assuming gets you. As soon as she let go of the wheelchair on their next outing, it started to tip backward. Luckily for the patient, she was quick enough to catch the wheelchair before it hit the ground.

Bloody Bloopers Can Be a Mess

A nurse was giving a lesson on how to hang blood using a patient who already had a bag hanging. Momentarily forgetting protocol, she pulled the spike while the bag was still hanging and ended up covered in blood in front of her nursing student.

Sometimes the Blooper is With Leaving the Doctor in Charge

A post-operative patient was left in the care of a nursing student and doctor while the attending nurse was busy with another patient. In her absence, the pair went ahead and suctioned the chest tubes without first putting a suction canister on the tubing. What was being suctioned went straight to the wall suction and then the ceiling, leaving the room and the patient covered in bodily fluids. It took two teams two weeks to get that room back in shape to receive patients again.

Did You Check the Date?

Following orders to administer as many flu vaccines as possible, one nurse was able to pull off 20 in one shift. Sadly it was found that the vaccine given was from the epidemic the year before and of no use. All 20 patients had to get a new shot, and 20 medication error reports filled in to help erase this blooper.

Don’t Leave a Hungry Patient Without Their Food

Dealing with her first patient who was connected to feeding tubes, a new nurse disconnected them in order to administer medications. She remembered to turn the food pump back on before leaving, but not to reconnect it. That day’s lunch ended up all over the patient’s bed.

Are You Sure You Have the Right Patient?

Calling for “Barry” in a medical office, the nurse neglected to verify the last name as the patient left the waiting area to receive treatment. The blood pressure was taken, with results that were significantly higher than what was recorded on the chart the week before. Luckily the blooper was discovered and the right “Barry” called back before any unnecessary medications were ordered.

The same type of mistake was made in an emergency room, where a nurse asked the patient if he was Mr. so and so rather than check his identification. Confused, the patient responded yes, and received an ID bracelet with the information for another patient. Again, the mistake was discovered before any harm was done to the patient.

Whoops, That Shouldn’t Be There

A nurse was distracted after starting an IV in a patient and left immediately after it was in place. A short time later she was called back to the room when the patient started to complain about severe pain and numbness in the arm. Turns out that in her haste to leave, she forgot to take the tourniquet off after the IV was safely in place.

Uhh, I Think You Have the Wrong Results

Running several lab test for various patients at the same time can be tricky, and resulted in one nurse informing a patient that she was pregnant. Impossible since that patient had a hysterectomy a few years earlier.

Making mistakes or bloopers is how we learn, and what usually facilitates better protocols and procedures being put into place to avoid them happening again. Luckily most nursing mistakes can be easily fixed, but it is important that we remind ourselves that they can be dangerous to the patient. Be a wise nurse and learn from the mistakes of others who have come before you, and you won’t end up topping the list of nursing bloopers.

Anything to add? Share your bloopers in the comments section below.

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.


  1. Working at a surgicenter, I was to give post op instructions to a woman’s husband “Bob”. I called for Bob, who was seated in the waiting room. I escorted him to our private area and proceeded to instruct him on how to care for his wife. I asked him if he had any questions, he said “no” and I asked him to bring the car to the exit door. When I escorted the wife out, helped her into the car, she looked at Bob and said” Who the hell is that” I said “Bob” she said “Not my Bob”. Bob looked at me and said “I wondered why you kept referring to my wife, because I’m not married”. The correct Bob was located, instructed and the wife was sent home to the correct Bob. Now I say “Bob for Maria”

  2. We had a patient in 4 point restraints that needed to have her sheets changed. 5 of us went in. One to hold each limb and the other to change the lines. I thought this would be a good time to check her picc dressing since that was the arm I was guarding but did not communicate this to the rest of the team. The nurse holding her other arm was not prepared and the patient quickly sat up and karate chopped me in the neck. We were able to quickly get her restraints back on. I was not injured but did learn an important lesson about communication that day. Plus we all had a good laugh at my expense.


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