Horror Stories of the Most Awkward Moments With Patients

Awkward Patient Doctor Moments

No two days are ever the same when it comes to the life of a doctor, but sometimes there is a nice dose of comedy to balance out the chaos. You signed up for a career full of varied experiences and life-changing interactions, but how many times have you had an encounter that is just hands down awkward?

Well, you are not the only one, as we have rounded up a few of the most awkward patient-doctor moments from the mouths of actual medical professionals:

“One morning I was rounding on an overweight [patient] that had a diagnosis of hypoventilation syndrome and obstructive sleep apnea. She had to wear a pressure mask to counter the weight her body habitus put on her lungs and upper airway. Sometimes patients get to talking to me and forget they left the TV on. Today… it was on the nature channel. The program was about a beached whale and the narration was going “and the whale is now suffocating under its own body weight” and “the whale is so heavy it is literally being crushed to death under its own weight.” I don’t have a bias against over or underweight people and obviously these sorts of thoughts don’t naturally come to my mind. But due to being loudly spouted by the TV, the patient and I looked at each other- she started laughing first, and I had to leave for a minute. What a horrible coincidence.”Mark Hancock, MD

“I was explaining the treatment to the husband of a patient about to be discharged. He kept nodding and agreeing with me, but I knew it was flying over his head. Turned out a fundamental problem was that I was describing the drugs as ‘tablets’ and he had no clue what those were.” Anonymous


“The most awkward moment for me is when a patient comes to me after having had a surgery and while examining I realize that the previous surgeon has messed it up. I have to be truthful to the patient while not criticizing the previous surgeon.”- Raghuraj S. Hegde, Ophthalmic Plastic Surgery and Ocular Oncology


“Pediatric nurse here. I’ve told more than one parent that their infant should not be drinking Dr. Pepper out of their bottle (or any other vessel for that matter).”- Anonymous


“I was conducting a physical exam, but when I was moving on to my abdominal exam, I noticed the patient’s shirt was stuck and I wasn’t able to lift it.  I nicely asked the gentleman to stand up briefly while I lifted up on the back of his shirt.  Still no luck.  I thought to myself “my goodness this man really takes tucking in his shirt seriously.”  So I gave it one last valiant effort and used all my might to pull it up one last time when I hear “AHHH OUCH!!”  Little did I know the gentleman was wearing a one-piece LDS garment!  So yes, I basically just gave my patient the worst wedgie of all time.  But, in my defense, I had very little knowledge of the LDS/Mormon religion at that time and didn’t even know garments EXISTED, let alone one-pieces!  I’ll never live that one down.”- Andrea Arnold, Physician Assistant and creator of the YouTube channel ‘Life as a PA’


“I was an internal medicine resident while I was working in a hospital. We had a pharmacy student rounding with us for a week. I had to perform a procedure where I had to take fluid out of abdominal cavity [which] involves putting a needle in a patient and collecting fluid in the bottles. We were planning to take out about 3-4 liters of fluid and the procedure is done under local anesthesia. I explained the procedure to the patient in front of the pharmacy student and I started the procedure. All of a sudden, I hear a “boom”. The pharmacy student had fainted and fell on the ground. My hands were tied with the procedure and I couldn’t really move. I screamed for help and someone took care of her. She [clearly] wasn’t accustomed to bodily fluids.”Amit Mahipal, MD, Medical Oncologist, Mayo Clinic

Sierra Kennedy
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