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Working in the medical field is a mix of stress, excitement, and embarrassment. No matter how hard nurses try to be perfect (which we are), we still have off days and make mistakes. This is something that most nurses can laugh about after shifts, but some stories are more embarrassing than others. Here are some of the most embarrassing stories from nurses:

This is not mine but a friend’s story. She was discharging a patient and asked if she needed help getting dressed. The patient replied with “no thanks, I’d like to be able to face my family that way”.

This is not mine but a friend’s story. She was discharging a patient and asked if she needed help getting dressed. The patient replied with “no thanks, I’d like to be able to face my family that way”.

The nurse didn’t recognize the man until she helped him into his shorts and saw his penis in full display. It was her first week on the job and she had just seen her first penis!

My first day at work I walked into the wrong room by mistake and said “Hi honey” to the old man laying there. He looked great in his hospital gown and I thought he was my husband (we were at the same hospital).

I was an R.N. in a local hospital and my first day on the job was going great until it wasn’t. It was my first day at work and I got lost walking around the hospital with my mentor, who had been there for years. We were almost done with our tour when we walked into what looked like a private room that happened to have three elderly men in it, one of whom was wearing nothing but his hospital gown (shame). One of those men instantly recognized me as his wife, even though she didn’t look anything like him; this man had dementia and he thought that I was his better half because they’d found him wandering around without pants on earlier that morning (double shame). He said hello to me while pointing at himself like we were both supposed to know who each other was—but I didn’t know who he was so then I just said “hi honey” back! Then came the awkward moment where everyone stopped talking because they realized what had just happened—I’d just greeted an old man by mistake instead of greeting my own husband!

A new nurse was admitting a very frail elderly patient and asked her how she was doing. “I’m just tired of shaking!” was her reply.

As an otherwise new nurse, you’re probably thinking “Of course she’s tired of shaking hands. What else could she possibly mean?” But that’s just it: you wouldn’t have thought anything at all if this story didn’t involve nursing school and scrubs and a patient who was in the hospital because she was old and frail. Nurses are supposed to be compassionate; they’re supposed to make people feel comfortable, especially when they’re not feeling so hot themselves. And yet here was this nurse with no idea what her patient meant by “I’m just tired of shaking!” until she asked another nurse later on (and even then, only after asking herself why she hadn’t realized).

Fortunately for us all (or perhaps unfortunately depending on what kind of moods your patients put you in), there were no lawsuits filed over this incident—or at least none that made court records available online—but how many nurses have been involved in similar situations? How many times have we failed our patients by not understanding what they’ve said?