What’s The Most Embarrassing Thing You’ve Said to A Patient?

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

Mistakes happen. Nurses are only human, after all. They share intimate moments with complete strangers, which can lead to some surprising revelations. From everyday mistakes to hilarious encounters, we asked providers to share some of the most embarrassing things they’ve revealed to their patients; their responses are just too wild to believe.

“At the beginning of my career, I had ear surgery and went to work the next day with my head bandaged. I saw a new patient on a floor that was a designated head injury unit. The new patient behaved strangely with me, but eventually I finished the history and exam on her. Later, a nurse told me that the patient I examined told her, “A head-injured patient thought he was a doctor and examined me, but I was too scared to call for help.”


“Was caring for a lovely family that just had their baby, mostly Mandarin speaking, but we communicated pretty well without an interpreter. I asked them if they were planning on having their baby circumcised, to which they both looked puzzled at one another and then at me. I did my best to explain the procedure in the plainest sense I could: ‘It’s when the doctor removes the small amount of skin around the end of the baby’s penis.’ Still looking confused, they then replied, ‘But…it’s a girl.’So, I guess that was a no.”


“Went to take my scrub jacket off to clean a patient’s wound and I said, “I’m going to take my clothes off now” instead of jacket. The patient said, “I love this hospital.”


“I called the ‘uvula’ the ‘vulva’ in front of a male patient, male resident, and male ENT….😳 all with zero sense of humor…”


“Had a blood transfusion on a hospice patient and read out the time left on the pump and said, “You don’t have long left,” the patient and their daughter burst out laughing and it took me a second to realize why 😬”


“I had a daughter tell me she wanted to talk about her dad’s coffin. I said, “Oh okay, do you need more information about death benefits?” She said, “No, his coffin.” I said, “Yes – so burial support?” She said, “No, his COUGHING.” Her southern accent had me all messed up 😂”


“As a student nurse I was taking care of an elderly lady who had an amputated leg. I’m helping get her dressed in the morning and I pick up her shoe, look around and under the bed and say, “I can’t find your other shoe.” 😳😂. She said, “Well, honey, I only need one.”


”I was walking out of a room and the patient’s mom thanked me and my brain and mouth couldn’t agree on “no problem” and “you’re welcome” so naturally I said, ‘You’re a problem!’


”I was a young, registered nurse working in the ER when paramedics brought in a patient covered in blankets. The paramedics said very quietly, “This is Mr. Stumpy.” I assumed that was his name and said, ‘Mr. Stumpy, could you please move over onto the stretcher?’ I did not know the patient was a double BKA. He said to me, “no one’s ever had the guts to say that to my face.” Let’s just say I was very apologetic.”


”I work in public health. Giving a client a TB test. He asked if it goes in his upper arm. I told him, “No I’m gonna put it in your foreskin.” (Should have said forearm). He looked at me and said, “Excuse me, where?” I felt my face all red 😂”


“My first job was in the NICU and of course I was working nights. A parent asked me once how I stayed awake all night and, without missing a beat, I answered, ‘I’m addicted to Coke.’ I realized when they looked at me strangely how that must’ve sounded, so I quickly let them know I was talking about Coca Cola.”


“Told a nearly recovered pt with severe burns that I was going to have to light a fire under him to get moving.”



Your turn! Share the most embarrassing thing you’ve said to a patient in the comments section below.


This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.


  1. In my very early days of nursing I had not yet learned to avoid assigning family members as ANYTHING I assumed from my naive past, but to allow the family member to identify themselves as they related to the patient. One fine morning I had a male patient who looked to me to be about 50 and beside him was a very doting woman who looked much older, I had guessed maybe 75, helping him with his meal. During the admission process, I was completing intake questions and said, “Are you his mother?” She quipped as she gasped and glared at me, stating “I…. am his wife!!” I was mortified, and no one in the room thought it was funny. From then on in my long career, I said, “Are you family to the patient”?

  2. I was struggling to plug a pump in at the head of the bed because our pumps have wide plugs and even though out outlets have 4 outlets, obly 2 plugs will fit in them. They won’t fit side by side. If I had known I was going to be a contortionist when u signed up for nursing school… Anyways, I was stretched out over the side of the head of the bed with one of my legs in the air trying to get this plug in the wall to get the pump to stop beeping and I said, “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be all sitting on your face up here.” It took a second for both of us to realize what I’d said. He was a middle aged man. Not my average age group. I started to apologize because I was about 2 weeks on the floor and I was mortified, “I’m sorry I didnt mean to say it like that. I meant…” And he laughed and said, “I know what you meant, it’s ok.” So we both laughed. That taught me that most patients still have a sense of humor despite their situation.

  3. I didn’t say it but I must stop and think before I say it so I don’t say it. As a new RN on a Cardiac Stepdown, one of my co-worker was giving report to the on coming shift, she was reporting about the heart function and said “The pt’s “erection fraction” is…. (She was to say ejection fraction). Needless to say we all laughed. Working in MICU, EP Lab, Cardiac MRI, Nuclear Cardology and TEE Echo, Ejection Fraction comes up frequently, so I remember what she said so many years ago and I must stop and think before I speak.
    Working in the MICU, one of our kiss ass Clinicians was giving report to the Attendings and Residents and told them that this pt now has a “Pussy Muir” (should of said Passé Muir). We would give each other report to each other and say Pussy Muir just to let her know we all all the same and need to treat each other with respect.
    Again, in the MICU another kiss ass Clinician was dating a know it all resident which she would allow him to jump line to “our eat in” and I would complain that I didn’t get to eat yet and he needs to wait after the 3rd lunch people. She would get mad at me. One day he was tell the family of a pt that was a GI Bleeder he was on a “Pit Drip” and to help slow/stop the bleeding and it is also used in Oby-Gyne to slow down contractions. We all smiled and after he finished, we called him over and said yes we use a “Pit Drip” and Oby-Gyne uses a “Pit Drip”. Out’s is Pitressin and theirs is Pitocin. Now go over there and explain to the family correctly. We stood there and waited and watched him correct his explanation.

  4. I had been home with my young ones for awhile when I went back to work. I was admitting a gentleman to CCU for possible MI and told him “we need to get your Jammies on now….” He looked at me and said “Lady, I don’t even talk to my kids like that!!!” Terribly embarrassing with a person who certainly didn’t need added stress!!!!

  5. As I was walking a triage patient to a room who had head cold symptoms she kept asking me “what” as I was speaking while walking next to her. I finally turned to her and said “boy that cold must be affecting your ears!”
    And she replied “I am deaf but I read lips, you weren’t facing me”

  6. I was a Mother/Infant RN, giving a newborn his first bath. After I washed his hair I was drying it with a wash cloth. I accidentally said “he’s getting his first blow job” while meaning to say “he’s getting his first blow dry.” I was so embarrassed.

  7. I was getting a morning weight on a very large patient, the scales are built into the bed. After getting the reading, the patient asked what did it say? My reply was “one at a time please.” My colleagues were speechless and the patient busted out laughing with me.

  8. I was providing Bone Marrow Transplant education to a patient and was attempting to explain how the hospital stay pre-transplant and after would be counted (minus days-hospital treatment prior to stem cell infusion, Day Zero-stem cell infusion & plus days-after stem cell infusion) and I told the patient “their days were numbered!” Open mouth insert foot! We all had a good laugh after I recovered from my embarrassment.

  9. My patient was a bed-bound adult male that was embarrassed that I was having to clean up his bottom after a bowel movement. I was trying to put him at ease and said “Well, at least we have proof that you give a sh*t”….the silence was deafening, then he burst out laughing! I was so embarrassed because I’m usually very professional!

  10. I was showing a patient a wig she could buy on line until her hair grew back. I pulled up what I thought was a wig website and it was adult toys!! Her husband and her and I all laughed and every time I see them her husband brings it up. 🙂


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