Monday, 16 January 2012

The Awkward moment when...

On average I do between 230 and 250 shifts a year. During a shift I average 9-10 jobs. Over the year that means I roughly attend to up to 2500 patients. Unfortunately the odds are stacked against me for putting my foot in my mouth, dropping a clanger, being inappropriate and misreading my audience. It's bound to happen and it does. For me however it has seemed to happen an awful lot in recent months. Inspired by the increased incidence of tumbleweed I thought I'd compile a list of 'don'ts' for anyone involved in patient contact. In fact, even if your aren't just follow the rules and you'll save yourself some red faced moments.


1) Ask a patient if their dad will be coming with them when in actual fact it's their boyfriend. (Gross!!)

2) Ask the patients daughter if she is coming with us to hospital when she is in fact the patients wife.

3) Try and take a blood pressure on a prosthetic arm. It makes you look stupid.

4) Ask a Jewish man in severe pain if he has ever had gas before. Refer to it as Entonox. Seriously. (I was mortified)

5) Sit on a patients glass coffee table. It will generally crack.

6) Check for pupil size on a patient with a glass eye.

7) Ask a patient to hold out both arms in front of them when they have already told you they only have one arm.

8) Ask a lady with abdo pain when her baby is due. It's awkward when she tells you she isn't pregnant.

9) Accept a cup of coffee and then proceed to pour it on the cream sofa.

10) Ask how old the patients little boy is when in actual fact it's a girl.

11) Eat a jam doughnut and enter a patients house. When they offer you a tissue for the jam on your chin it's cringy.

12) Repeatedly ring the doorbell for 98a at 3am when you need 98b. It does you no favours.

13) Try and walk through a closed glass door. It doesn't fill the family with confidence and hurts.

14) Laugh when a patient tells you their pathetic ailment. They get offended and sometimes violent.

15) Try to school a patient about chest pain and their ECG. When they tell you they are a cardiologist you feel very small indeed.

16) Say Happy Christmas to relatives of a patient you have just pronounced dead on Christmas day.

17) Laugh out loud when you unbutton a man's shirt for an ECG and he is wearing a bra. The ground won't open up and swallow you.

18) Offer the carry the poorly child then bash their head into the door frame. The crying will not stop.

19) Let the puppy escape through the front door when you have already been warned by the family not to leave the door open. 

20) Ask your 23 year old male patient if their mother is coming to  hospital with them. When he says "She's my fiance" there is nowhere to hide.


  1. I've done many of these, a couple at the one job. There is nothing you can say.

  2. ( lol ) Thank you for these insights .

  3. 1. Don't put an ECG dot on a false leg. It won't work.
    2. Don't ask a blind patient to 'keep an eye out for the ambulance' when taking their 999 call.
    3. Always check the back of the ambulance for the patients cat by the heater.
    4. Don't assume the person standing with the patient knows them. Blank looks about PMH ensure.

  4. Don't ask people with foreign bodies inserted in certain cavities how they got there, well not if you want the truth, and definitely not unless you have a very good poker face. Laughing at the bizarre story they tell you does not go down well.

  5. LOL.

    I recently told a COPD patient not to hold his breath waiting for a respiratory clinic appointment though it is usually my partner that makes the foot/mouth interface statements.

  6. Be so busy prepping instruments that you ask the patient the nature of their visit, and follow up the question by asking what brings them to the emergency room.

  7. My favourite, and happens so often, as a wheelchair user is being asked to take a seat. Always makes me giggle and the hospital staff squirm.

  8. Don't tell a double amputee to keep their arms and legs in as your taking trolley off the back of ambulance....

  9. Don't ask a patient with one prosthetic leg which knee is giving them trouble. Awkward!

  10. Take a 999 call for an insect bite and then pick the dangerous animal script and say"Where is the fly now!"

  11. My first day on shift, I asked an old lady to stand ( she was sitting under a warm blanket) and she said she could not. Now for those not in the know, everyone who calls an Ambo state they cannot stand, suddenly!! After many attempts at persuading her to stand up and met with many ' NO I can't ' she finally lifted blanket to show no legs........

    Embarrassed or what!

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