"We are products of our past, but we don't have to be prisoners of it." - Rick Warren
Medical professionals of Reddit were asked: "What mistake have you made in your medical career that, because of the outcome, you've never forgotten?" These are some of the best answers.
1/17 I do HIV testing and once I showed up to work super tired because I couldn't sleep the night before. This guy comes in for a test, we go through the pre-counselling and then I tell him to step out for a few minutes while the results come up. Once he comes back to get his results, I tell him to take a sit and the first thing that came out of my mouth was "Your results are positive" and then I saw the look on his face and that's when I realized I f*cked up. I then said "Oh no no no, I meant to say negative." I almost gave the guy a heart attack :/
2/17 Once as a tired medical resident I was called to the ER to admit someone at like 3am. This bonehead had gall bladder removal a week ago and now had a surgical-site wound infection. I asked if they'd taken their post-op antibiotics they were prescribed, and they weren't sure. I was getting more and more frustrated with this dumbass preventing my sleep when I decided to use a "pregnant pause" interview technique, and just shut up. This usually results in either awkward silence and the patient saying "uhh WTF doc" or awkward silence followed by some useful deep revelation.
In this case the guy hung his head low, looked at his feet through unfocused eyes, started to sniffle while his halting voice cracked "I can't read. Never could. Didn't know the instructions they wrote down for me and didn't know I had medicine to buy. I didn't ask them because I was embarrassed."
Illiteracy haunts rural and urban places in most countries. Those folks aren't reading this, and they depend on our patience and understanding, and acceptance, to detect and bridge that vast communication gap. That's what stuck with me.
3/17 When I was a new paramedic, we were called to a house for an unknown problem. We arrived and found our patient unresponsive but breathing on a bed. A friend of his found him after he hadn't returned his phone calls- they were going out to do something that day, and he found it weird that the guy hadn't called him yet, so he had gone to his house to investigate. The patient didn't have any pill bottles laying around, and his friend didn't know anything about the patient's medical history. So, I loaded him up into the ambulance and started transporting to the hospital. Started an IV, did an ECG, drew blood work, the whole work up. Get him to the hospital, and the first thing the nurse asked was "What was his blood sugar level?" Oops. Forgot to check it. Turns out, it was incredibly low- which is completely treatable, and probably wouldn't have required transporting him to the hospital if corrected on scene. Every patient gets a blood sugar check now.
4/17 I work in Palliative Care, and in the fall I sent a patient home to see if he could die there instead of in hospital. We weren't very hopeful, but thought it would be worth a try. To no one's great surprise (even his and his wife's), he ended up coming back a couple of days later for whatever reason.
I re-admitted him, since I knew him. I knew he wanted to be a DNR (do not resuscitate). I wrote it on my note. But I didn't re-fill out the hospital paperwork. The next day, I got to work to discover he'd been coded and was on a ventilator in the ICU. Instead of passing peacefully, his wife had to make the decision to turn off life support. My entire job at the end of life is to ensure as good a death as I can. And in one simple omission, I f---ed that up royally.
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