Doctors have extremely difficult jobs. They must be able to diagnose and treat a wide range of illnesses and injuries, sometimes under extremely stressful situations and in chaotic environments.
They can preach until they are blue in the face to patients about how to live a healthy lifestyle and best care for themselves. But, at the end of the day, people are always going to have accidents and inevitable disasters to deal with. And the worst of these emergencies are the ones that could’ve easily been avoided with a little common sense.
Just take it from these doctors from around the world who recently shared stories about the dumbest thing they’ve seen a patient do.
45. Bending The Knee
Had a patient come in stating that he couldn’t bend his knee.
Asked him to remove his trousers so I could examine his leg. After he removed his trousers the reason that he couldn’t bend his knee was that he had a plaster cast around it.
Checking his notes, he had been sent numerous letters asking him to come in for removal of this plaster cast. As he hadn’t attended any of the outpatient clinics, the hospital assumed that he had removed the cast himself.
44. B Better
A patient thought taking vitamin B6 at double dose was the same as taking B12
43. Allergic To Alcohol
I had to explain to a 17-year-old girl and her mother that she was not in fact “allergic” to alcohol; she was just hungover.
She complained that on nights when she drank too much vodka, usually on an empty stomach, that she would feel nauseous, flushed and sometimes vomit in the morning. But it didn’t happen all the time, and there were no other typical symptoms of an allergic reaction.
42. Contagious Cancer
I once had a patient with a cancer diagnosis completely depressed about not being able to see their family anymore. I was confused because I had spoken with this individual’s spouse and extended family who seemed supportive; there wasn’t any indication of family problems, etc.
It turns out that this individual thought “genetic” and “family history” had meant something similar to “contagious”, leading them to the conclusion that one should stay away from family lest it spread.
That was one clarification I was so happy to give.
41. Keeping The Faith
Doctor: Any chance you’re pregnant?
Doctor: Are you sexually active?
Doctor: Why is there no chance you’re pregnant?
Patient: Because I’m not married.
Doctor: Pee in this cup.
40. Detachable Hip
My dad is an orthopedic surgeon who does a lot of hips and knees. He cries with laughter every time he tells the story of a woman who didn’t understand how hip surgery works and thought they were going to take her leg off, fix the hip, and then reattach her leg.
39. Harrowing Hair Loss
I know a guy who went to the doctor in a panic thinking he had cancer because when he tugged his eyebrow hairs some came loose.
38. Controlling To A Fault
Patient: We have been trying to get pregnant for 5 years with no success.
Me: Are you currently on any infertility drugs?
Patient: No, but I have been on birth control for the last 7 years.
Me: You are currently on birth control but also trying to get pregnant.
Patient: Yes, I like to know when my period is coming.
37. Rolling With It
I was asked by a patient in the respiratory ward, if I thought his lung cancer might have had anything to do with his 50-a-day smoking habit. Because he smoked roll-ups, and he wasn’t sure if they counted.
I struggled to keep a straight face, said yes, and busied myself with his chart.
36. Air Head
I was working in the ER and was told we were getting a patient in respiratory distress. When she gets in, she is having problems breathing and needs oxygen. I’m placing an oxygen mask on her and she yells, “I’m allergic to oxygen!” I heard the doctor laugh behind the curtains.
35. Addicted Baby
A 20-year-old girl and her fiancé find out that she’s pregnant.
Me (part way through taking her history): Do you smoke cigarettes?
Her: Yea, about a pack a day.
Me: You should definitely stop that.
Her: Well, my sister told me that if I stopped smoking, the baby would go into withdrawal and die.
34. A Hearty Calzone
The episode I can’t forget is the time a patient with established coronary artery disease and current chest symptoms. He was in having an imaging cardiac stress test, and he sent out for a large cheesesteak calzone to be delivered to him between the stress and rest portions of the exam.
33. Wart Do You Mean
On an ER rotation, a guy came in for a “finger lesion”. I go to talk to him, prepared for some crazy growth or cut that needs to be sutured. Took 2 seconds to figure out what it was. Turns out it’s a wart on the tip of his index finger, the size of a pencil eraser, that has been there for 10 years and hasn’t changed one bit (no pain either of course). He told me he was upset that he had to wait 6 hours in the waiting area before being seen and demanded a sandwich. He received his sandwich and a swift kick out the door — and no wart treatment.
32. Shape Of You
I was 16 and I was in the bath when I felt this lump on the back of my head! What’s worse is, I told my mum who felt it and sent me straight to the doctor’s office, super anxious. The doctor had a feel and said, “ It’s just the shape of your skull” I’ll never forget the look on her face as I left!
31. Thank The High Heavens
An older lady was brought by her husband into the ER — barely conscious. In a very thick Italian accent, she told the doctor she was dying. She had complained of feeling tingly and having a dry mouth prior to passing out.
The doctor sat the husband down and got a history. No serious medical problems and she was very fit. In fact, she spent the morning cleaning her son’s bar, as she often did on Sundays.
Considering her age, they took these symptoms very seriously and begun running tests to find the source of her ailments.
The son came in to visit his mother, and on the way he bypassed his bar. He noticed that his mother had helped herself to some of the ‘treats’ prepared the night before.
The son, the apple of his parents’ eyes, had to then explain to his father and the doctor that the treats she had eaten were space cakes. And apparently, she really enjoyed them as she ate quite a few.
They then had to sit down and tell this elderly lady that she was not dying and that she was in fact stoned!
Fortunately, she was still high enough to see the humour.
30. Cutting Through The Competition
Had a patient in ER with 4 long straight deep cuts on the back of his hand. I asked him how he got them (he was pretty wasted).
“Well, we had a competition who dared to cut their hand with a razor blade. I won.”
29. Hard To Breathe
I had a patient come in one day and tell me he was struggling to swallow his medication. On closer inspection, it turned out he was trying to swallow a suppository.
28. Rotten Tomatoes
A patient came in because she bought a jar of tomato sauce from a store which she opened by herself and cooked by herself in her apartment where she lived alone.
She then tasted this sauce and looked at it and decided it was contaminated with human blood.
She brought the cooked sauce to the ER for testing and wanted to get tested for HIV!
27. Sticky Situation
I work in an ER and my favorite was the guy who came in because he thought when he ate an apple a few days ago, he may have eaten the sticker on it and wanted an x-ray to see if the sticker was still inside him. FYI the material used to make those stickers is food grade and edible.
26. All In Your Head
I work in the ER and I had a shift in pediatrics. It was a particularly busy day and people were overflowing out of the chairs, so it took a while to get to the non-critical patients.
One mom had been sitting with her daughter for 2 hours (not too long considering how busy it was) and insisted that her daughter be seen.
Me: So what brought you in today?
Mom: (angrily) I have been waiting for over an hour and no one has come to help my daughter and she is dying!
Me: Okay, let me see if I can help. What seems to be the problem?
Mom: She has a headache.
Me: Okay, tell me more about the headache.
Daughter: Well, I don’t actually have a headache anymore…
Mom: WHAT?!?! We have been waiting here so long my daughter doesn’t even have a headache anymore! I want to talk to your supervisor.
25. Playing Dirty
My mum is a doctor. Once she had a mother come in with her 5-year-old about a rash. My mum took one look at it, got some wet paper towels and rubbed it off — because it wasn’t a rash, just dirt.
24. All In Vein
Had a 911 call with a hysterical patient. Lights and sirens to the address.
“Ma’am, you aren’t dying. You have varicose veins.”
23. Pants On Fire
I had a fella come into the ER who was stone cold sober, but only because he had spilled all of his rubbing alcohol onto his pants, which meant he couldn’t drink it. The reason why he was in the ER in the first place was because he tried to burn the alcohol off of his jeans by lighting the alcohol on fire, thinking the alcohol would burn and not his pants. He had some pretty bad burns from the calves down because he couldn’t get his pants off of his shoes. To be honest, pretty nice guy. Absolutely the kind you’d expect to light himself on fire, but he was very pleasant considering the circumstances.
22. Beet It, Kid
My dad is a doctor. As a kid, I called him in a panic because I was peeing blood. Mind you, we were in Africa at that point and he was doing development work. He told me not to flush and rushed home.
Just to clarify, my dad was in the middle of a meeting with a bunch of big kahunas from Food and Agriculture, United Nations, Multi-stakeholder Forum, etc. and I ruined that meeting for him.
I’d eaten beets.
21. Losing Their Marbles
Had a married, elderly man lodge a marble pestle in his rectum because he was “bored.” His biggest concern was that his wife might find out.
A middle-aged guy lacerated his non-dominant hand with a reciprocating saw his dominant hand was using to cut PVC pipe under a sink.
A diabetic woman said that she uses graham crackers and peanut butter to bring her blood sugar down. Yes, down.
A morbidly obese young woman seeking evaluation for chronic knee pain while eating a meatball sandwich in the exam room.
20. A Second Passing
A patient was given a small camera, the size of a large pill, to look for gastrointestinal bleeding. It is disposable and the pictures are stored on a belt-like device. Upon reviewing the film, I found the pill had taken two trips through their tract. Turns out the patient ate the camera, pooped it out, then ate it again because “it went through too fast the first time.”
19. Exotic Pet Food
I worked the emergency visits at a veterinary clinic. One Sunday, a woman brought in her dog in full panic mode because of vomiting/diarrhea. Turns out, she fed her dog Chinese food and spent $200 to be told not to do that anymore.
18. Written In The Stars
I asked a patient complaining of dizziness if she had ever been diagnosed with “vertigo”. The daughter chimed in and said, “No, no, she’s a Libra…” I then laughed hysterically at her awesome joke. She was dead serious.
17. Baking Soda And Lasers
When discussing a precancerous skin lesion on a patient, I found out they had used a “laser ray” instead of classic cancer treatment. It was a cancer ray that was bought online. It also apparently had “frequencies for arthritis”. They insisted that the vibratory frequency can be tuned to destroy cancer cells, just like a trained singer may be able to use her voice to break a crystal glass. The patient did not believe that cancer cells and regular cells would have the same frequency.
Another patient insisted that his cancer had been properly treated at home with baking soda (he gave me a website like phkillscancer.com or something). The patient also had with him a surgery report in which it appears his baking soda consumption resulted in a buildup of abnormal calcium in the wall of his stomach, which had to be removed.
16. A Dash of Cinnamon
A patient came in breathing through his mouth. It was open as wide as he could stretch it, but his breath sounded like he was sucking that last bit of liquid through a straw.
He had snorted 9 ounces of cinnamon when his mum’s boyfriend dared him to. He then tried to snort water to wash it away. His mucus became like a biscuit. He had a cold too.
Tried very hard not to insult the collective intellect of this family.
15. Pregnant With Stupidity
This pregnant young lady and her baby daddy came in one night because the girl was bloated and in a lot of pain. The doctor felt her stomach and it was as hard as a rock. He asked her when the last time she went to the bathroom was. She told him, “I haven’t gone since I found out I was pregnant. I didn’t want to poop the baby out.”
Turns out she had been taking medicine to stop you from going to the bathroom for weeks. It’s shocking to me that there are at least two people in the world that believe you poop out babies.
14. Fatal Food Coma
I had a 26-year-old woman who was 738 lbs. She got upset because she was put on a diet while in the hospital that did not allow her to order certain things. Fed up with all the healthy food she was forced to order, she called Dominos and ordered a large pizza. They delivered it to her room, and she devoured the whole thing. She died of a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lungs) three weeks later.
13. Mouthing Off
My first year of dental school, not three weeks into the program, our class went down and did a Mission of Mercy trip. This is where dental providers from around the state provide free, 100% no cost to you dental work. It can range from simple cleanings to full on root canals, flippers, etc.
Mind you, I have 3 weeks of dental knowledge, which equates to nothing. I escorted a patient to the dentist, who allowed me to assist. The patient bragged about how he never brushes his teeth or flosses and has good dental health care. Wrong. Their breath smelled of rotting flesh and burnt hair. During the health history portion, the guy talked about his diet of McDonald’s, alcohol, meth, weed, and more alcohol.
We finally get to the portion of providing the dental care, and all of his teeth are rotten, or in the process of rotting. The patient grills me on what to do and says the current dentist is lying and to help him out. He does not need any procedures other than a simple cleaning. I try to persuade him; the dentist tries to persuade him. Eventually, he storms off saying all of this is some corporate greed non-sense.
12. Not Cone-Doning This Behavior
We had a pup that was about 7 months old admitted for essentially an evisceration. Now, while the thought of a small puppy having a giant hole in its stomach and all of the organs spilling out is terrifying, it was completely preventable.
After the spay, the owners were instructed to leave the “cone of shame” on the puppy at all times if she was not being directly supervised. Well, they didn’t, claiming that it “looked like it was hurting her”, so they took it off and left the house. The puppy promptly licked open her stitches. From there, it got kind of gruesome.
The even more stupid part is that the owners threatened to sue us because it was our fault they ignored medical instructions and thus had to come back in and pay over $1,000 to have their puppy’s life saved.
The puppy survived and I see her regularly at our clinic. The stitches were dissolvable but they don’t instantly do so, hence the cone. We did follow procedure by stating the expenses beforehand to determine if the owners would have to surrender. Luckily, they were financially stable enough to afford the immediate surgery. Had they surrendered, I’m confident that the puppy would have become mine.
11. Shocking News
While working as a primary care physician, I had a 40ish-year-old man come in with his wife complaining of “electric shocks” for the past year. It quickly became apparent these were static shocks caused by his cheap work suit and rubber-soled work shoes. I explained he just needed to change his shoes, and it would stop, but both he and his wife were baffled. They’d never heard of static shocks and couldn’t understand why I couldn’t treat his “condition”. Unfortunately, I have no power to change the laws of physics.
10. Male Pregnancy
One day, a guy came in and I asked for his referral. He said he wasn’t here for a blood test but wanted to tell me he thinks he is pregnant. His wife told him to find a female doctor (me) during his pregnancy. I tried my hardest not to laugh. He was so serious. He had broken English but he explained all his symptoms and showed me his swollen belly.
I told him I wasn’t a doctor and took him down the hall to an actual doctor. The doctor let me stay while he explained to the patient he wasn’t pregnant. The patient was convinced he was and wouldn’t leave until they did an ultrasound. But we didn’t do those at the medical centre and he would need a referral to have one done.
Instead, the doctor had him do an on-the-spot urine test which showed negative. The patient was still convinced he was pregnant. The doctor asked if he had ever been a female. He said no. I think (but I’m not 100%) the doctor ended up writing him a referral to the woman’s hospital to have an ultrasound.
I’d found a big, hairy spider in my apartment. I tried to squash it but it got away. I couldn’t find it again and also didn’t sleep well for the next few nights because I was paranoid about the same spider lurking in the dark, somewhere in my crappy apartment.
Then I woke up with what looked like a spider bite. So I start googling spider pics and become convinced that the spider I saw was a brown recluse and now I’m going to die. As I’m reading about brown recluse horror stories, I am getting a headache, feeling hot flashes, and start feeling nauseous.
I actually called 911 and I cringe so hard thinking about it now, but they took me to the ER where I waited for 14 hours to be seen. By that time I’d slept off my brown recluse bite symptoms to the point that I couldn’t even remember where the bite was supposed to be.
The ironic thing is that now I work in healthcare and when people like this come into the ER on my shift I’m actually happy to have an “easy” patient to deal with, all things considered.
8. Wine Not
A guy came in several times with a urinary tract infection. A guy. So that’s weird. The first couple of times, we were like, “Okay, that’s strange. Here’s some medicine.”
But this dude kept coming back. He returned 6 times with a UTI. They ask him everything they legally can (“Why does a guy keep getting these?”), trying to narrow the cause down. Finally, they ask him what he does for a living because nothing else he told us was out of the ordinary.
Guy works at a high-end gay club where every night he attaches his Johnson to a catheter and serves wine from it.
7. Pulling It Together
I once had a child who swallowed a sizeable magnet that passed to the intestine and we were just waiting for it to pass in the stool. The next day, when he came for follow up, we found out that he swallowed another one that got stuck to the first magnet in the intestine through the stomach wall, resulting in intestinal obstruction. He was transferred to OR immediately to have them surgically removed.
A friend of mine who is in school to become a nurse told me a story of why they have to be explicitly clear when explaining how a patient should administer their medication. When a woman who came in for an ear infection was given a liquid capsule for ingestion, she came back in with no results. Turns out she was puncturing the capsule and squirting it in her ear…
Another story was a women who had recently been diagnosed with diabetes and needed to give herself injections. The doctor demonstrated how to do the injection by using an orange and injecting the needle into it. Turns out the woman had been injecting oranges with Insulin and eating them…
5. DIY Treatment
I had an ER patient that was pretty epic. He was a farmer who was involved in some sort of equipment accident where he had broken his ankle and received a large laceration on his chest. For the ankle, the guy made his own cast out of concrete and for the laceration he used copper wire to sew it shut.
So now he had chemical burns from the concrete and a blood infection from the wire. Amazingly, he survived.
4. That’s Tubular
I work as a receptionist/office assistant at a large clinic, so I’m obviously not a doctor but I do deal with a lot of patients. I haven’t been doing it for very long, but a couple of interactions come to mind.
One was a lady wanting to know if our clinic would do a “virginity test” on her because her PCP told her they don’t do that. It took me way too long to explain it’s not a real thing.
Another lady needed to get tested for STDs. That’s not weird, but she said she needed us to send the results to her prospective employer. Uh, why? We told her we wouldn’t do that but she could come get a copy of her results and do whatever she wanted with it.
She did, but came back later the same day and said we gave her the wrong test results. We double check, nope, those are def her test results. Trying to sort this out with her, I asked her why her employers would want an STD test anyway. She said it’s to make sure she doesn’t have “tubulars.” Then it dawned on me. She meant Tuberculosis. This woman needed a TB test, not an STD test. She gets angry and yells that we’re just trying to trick her into taking more tests so we can charge her more. Then she stormed out…
3. Blue Jean Baby
I had a patient present with a blue hand.
Good pulse, normal temperature, and sensation and motor skills intact. Resolved with an alcohol prep pad.
It was garment dye transfer from her not-yet-washed denim jeans.
2. Seeing Clearly
I had a guy come in raging that his lenses were scratched and he bought the scratch resistance so this shouldn’t happen! First off, we give you the scratch resistance for free, it isn’t called “scratch impossible” for a reason. Second, we also give you a free warranty with purchase that covers scratches and breaks for an entire year. So it’s pretty generous and can be used multiple times a year.
Turns out his glasses were just dirty. Not a single scratch beneath the filth.
1. Pot, Kettle
Well, I got a good one for you. I knew a doctor who made a mistake while self-prescribing and ended up in the ER.