Share Your Nursing Horror Stories

  1. I figured this would be an interesting topic to start - since there are a lot of different nurses here working in different departments; and I'm quite sure each and everyone of us has had a shift/time where everything has gone completely wrong or there was complete and utter chaos!

    I'll go ahead and start with my own personal story which happened just last night (which is actually my inspiration for starting this thread).
    -----------------------------------------------------------
    As some of you know, I'm a CCRN and work in the ICU of a pretty large hospital. On an average night, we have about 6-15 nurses and one NP-C (not counting a tech or two) in the ICU at all times. Last night (more like this morning) I experienced somewhat of a 'nightmare' type shift that I never wished I'd have to experience before.

    I thought it would be a slower night to begin with, since the board was quiet and there were no incoming/outgoing patients. All of the patients were vented, med rounds had taken place and we were all just pretty much hanging out at the nurses station. One of our patients around 1:15am coded (blue). 4 members of the code team responded. A matter of seconds after that another patient coded right across the hall from that one! Another 4 nurses down, as well as the NP-C. Now keep in mind that last night we had exactly 10 nurses not counting myself... a total of 11 + NP-C + 1 tech. In any case, lets continue...

    About 2 minutes into both of the codes yet a THIRD patient coded! Now this seems unrealistic but I only preach the truth! Me and the rest of the nurses responded as well as one of the techs since we were short handed. During this code, I got a glance out the window and noticed that there was an incoming patient coming in that we didn't even know about!

    I pretty much fell out from here - it was me, 1 other nurse and one tech working on the patient with the doctor on the way. I had the tech take over compressions, while the other nurse continued ACLS. Finally, the doctor arrived and assisted with that as well. While the incoming patient was coming in... yes believe it or not CODED! We had him hooked up to a mobile H.M. Now here is where I truly lost it. My heart sank and I began to become overwhelmed! I froze up and just stood there before the 2 nurses that were bringing him up got him into an open room (now keep in mind, we didn't even know this patient was coming!).

    I couldn't take it anymore! I had the two nurses start BLS while I pushed crash meds and paged his doctor. Once I paged his doctor, I had the CA make an announcement over the PA for all avaliable ACLS certified nurses to report to the ICU right away. Within about 1 minutes, we had 4 nurses up there helping with the rest of the coded patients. Two went in with the code I was working on, and one came with the new incoming patient.

    Unfortunately, two of the patients didn't make it and the other two recovered within 4-5 minutes into the code. I wondered whether or not the delay in getting more avaliable hands-on-deck had anything to do with this, but I highly doubt it. All of these patients were far off and didn't have much time left to begin with.
    -----------------------------------------------------------
    So there's my story! Now lets here yours . . .
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  2. 20 Comments

  3. by   TazziRN
    I'm going through my horror story right now and it hasn't resolved yet, so I can't talk about it.
  4. by   Agent99
    Lately every day I go to work it's a horror story.
  5. by   incublissRN
    I work in cardiac recovery. I wasn't at work this night but the nurses told me about it. One nurse was floated to the floor and was team leading (which she didn't even know and she shouldn't have been doing - the floor isn't supposed to let our nurses team lead.) She's finally finds out she's team leading and then sees the rapid response team go in to her patient's room. Patient is non responsive and they want to send her back to cardiac recovery but want to keep the nurse there on the floor. Our charge nurse says no way, we are all paired and you are not sending a patient to us without a nurse. Long story short, patient comes to us with the nurse and codes as she arrives.

    As she is coding another patient starts circling the drain. Start to code her and then family decides to make her comfort measures only.

    Next, a patient slides out of bed and is sitting on the floor in poo with a smile on his face. Somehow, by the grace of God, the ETT is intact. Only the small bowel feeding tube is lost.

    Finally, a stable patient dumps a full urinal in his bed, which was icing on the cake.

    All of this occurred at about the same time.

    By the morning they were so frustrated because of the short staffing and what had happened. Managment was not very understanding and they are still too angry to discuss it.
  6. by   madwife2002
    Quote from antidote
    I figured this would be an interesting topic to start - since there are a lot of different nurses here working in different departments; and I'm quite sure each and everyone of us has had a shift/time where everything has gone completely wrong or there was complete and utter chaos!

    I'll go ahead and start with my own personal story which happened just last night (which is actually my inspiration for starting this thread).
    -----------------------------------------------------------
    As some of you know, I'm a CCRN and work in the ICU of a pretty large hospital. On an average night, we have about 6-15 nurses and one NP-C (not counting a tech or two) in the ICU at all times. Last night (more like this morning) I experienced somewhat of a 'nightmare' type shift that I never wished I'd have to experience before.

    I thought it would be a slower night to begin with, since the board was quiet and there were no incoming/outgoing patients. All of the patients were vented, med rounds had taken place and we were all just pretty much hanging out at the nurses station. One of our patients around 1:15am coded (blue). 4 members of the code team responded. A matter of seconds after that another patient coded right across the hall from that one! Another 4 nurses down, as well as the NP-C. Now keep in mind that last night we had exactly 10 nurses not counting myself... a total of 11 + NP-C + 1 tech. In any case, lets continue...

    About 2 minutes into both of the codes yet a THIRD patient coded! Now this seems unrealistic but I only preach the truth! Me and the rest of the nurses responded as well as one of the techs since we were short handed. During this code, I got a glance out the window and noticed that there was an incoming patient coming in that we didn't even know about!

    I pretty much fell out from here - it was me, 1 other nurse and one tech working on the patient with the doctor on the way. I had the tech take over compressions, while the other nurse continued ACLS. Finally, the doctor arrived and assisted with that as well. While the incoming patient was coming in... yes believe it or not CODED! We had him hooked up to a mobile H.M. Now here is where I truly lost it. My heart sank and I began to become overwhelmed! I froze up and just stood there before the 2 nurses that were bringing him up got him into an open room (now keep in mind, we didn't even know this patient was coming!).

    I couldn't take it anymore! I had the two nurses start BLS while I pushed crash meds and paged his doctor. Once I paged his doctor, I had the CA make an announcement over the PA for all avaliable ACLS certified nurses to report to the ICU right away. Within about 1 minutes, we had 4 nurses up there helping with the rest of the coded patients. Two went in with the code I was working on, and one came with the new incoming patient.

    Unfortunately, two of the patients didn't make it and the other two recovered within 4-5 minutes into the code. I wondered whether or not the delay in getting more avaliable hands-on-deck had anything to do with this, but I highly doubt it. All of these patients were far off and didn't have much time left to begin with.
    -----------------------------------------------------------
    So there's my story! Now lets here yours . . .
    Dont think I could compete with yours:spin: feel I have much better days
  7. by   bill4745
    On a 7pm-7am shift in an eight bed ICU, we had five codes between 7pm and midnight (only one was successful). By the end of the shift, it looked like a bomb of trash had hit. The pharmacy said by the time we were done, there were only three locked code drug boxes in the hospital.

    In the ER, we had a 300lb lady come in by ambulance. In the process of moving her to our stretcher, she rolled over and ended up face-down on the stretcher. She announced "I have to poop" and what seemed like several gallons of diarrhea shot out, almost hitting the ceiling, and obviously making a messy, slippery floor. Of course, she promptly stopped breathing. It ain't easy coding someone face down, while slidding around on poop.
    Last edit by bill4745 on Apr 17, '07
  8. by   grandee3
    Quote from Agent99
    Lately every day I go to work it's a horror story.
    Ditto!:spin:
  9. by   suzanne in hawaii
    What a horrible night, Antidote. Management should send you and the other nurses to a weekend at a nice spa.
  10. by   TazziRN
    Quote from bill4745
    In the ER, we had a 300lb lady come in by ambulance. In the process of moving her to our stretcher, she rolled over and ended up face-down on the stretcher. She announced "I have to poop" and what seemed like several gallons of diarrhea shot out, almost hitting the ceiling, and obviously making a messy, slippery floor. Of course, she promptly stopped breathing. It ain't easy coding someone face down, while slidding around on poop.

    I'm sorry......I'm just picturing several staff members running in and suddenly being feet up!!!
  11. by   flashpoint
    Well...it was my first night shift in a small LTC. The nurse who was supposed to be doing my orientation came in and took report with me, had me count narcotics, and went outside to get something out of her car...she never came back. I called the DON at home and she told me that I had a really good CNA with me and that I would have to cope. It was a combo LTC / AL facility and the only thing I knew about AL was that there were four residents, there were no meds between 2200 and 0600, and the CNA was supposed to handle everything on that unit...any medical emergency she was supposed to call 911. Technically the nurse couldn't go into AL because even though it is the same building it is a different facility. So...it's about 0400 and a lady walks through the AL door into the LTC and screams..."I'm having chest pain." She was gray and diaphoretic and clammy. I spaced off that I was only supposed to call 911 and started O2 and took her VS. B/P was in the 200s/100s. I called her doctor who gave me orders to transport to the hospital. I was unable to find her chart because it was locked up in the social service office (the SSD forgot to put it back). MARs were locked up in the AL office and I was not given the code to access the room. The resident couldn't remember her son's phone # and I had no way of getting ahold of family. When the ambulance finally showed up (after being paged out three times) her son who is a volunteer EMT walked in and asked me what her blood sugar was. Her blood sugar was 32. Apparently it is very plainly noted in her chart that her primary symptom of hypoglycemia is chest pain. The doctor screamed at me for waking him up...the EMTs screamed at me for waking them up and not knowing my patient...the son screamed at me for not calling him and for not knowing I could correct the problem with a snack...the DON yelled at me for not calling her before I called 911. The lady looked like a walking MI to me!

    I can't believe I stayed there for nine months!
  12. by   incublissRN
    Quote from cotjockey
    Well...it was my first night shift in a small LTC. The nurse who was supposed to be doing my orientation came in and took report with me, had me count narcotics, and went outside to get something out of her car...she never came back. I called the DON at home and she told me that I had a really good CNA with me and that I would have to cope. It was a combo LTC / AL facility and the only thing I knew about AL was that there were four residents, there were no meds between 2200 and 0600, and the CNA was supposed to handle everything on that unit...any medical emergency she was supposed to call 911. Technically the nurse couldn't go into AL because even though it is the same building it is a different facility. So...it's about 0400 and a lady walks through the AL door into the LTC and screams..."I'm having chest pain." She was gray and diaphoretic and clammy. I spaced off that I was only supposed to call 911 and started O2 and took her VS. B/P was in the 200s/100s. I called her doctor who gave me orders to transport to the hospital. I was unable to find her chart because it was locked up in the social service office (the SSD forgot to put it back). MARs were locked up in the AL office and I was not given the code to access the room. The resident couldn't remember her son's phone # and I had no way of getting ahold of family. When the ambulance finally showed up (after being paged out three times) her son who is a volunteer EMT walked in and asked me what her blood sugar was. Her blood sugar was 32. Apparently it is very plainly noted in her chart that her primary symptom of hypoglycemia is chest pain. The doctor screamed at me for waking him up...the EMTs screamed at me for waking them up and not knowing my patient...the son screamed at me for not calling him and for not knowing I could correct the problem with a snack...the DON yelled at me for not calling her before I called 911. The lady looked like a walking MI to me!

    I can't believe I stayed there for nine months!
    I would have assumed the same thing too.
  13. by   RNDreamer
    oh my

    Quote from bill4745
    On a 7pm-7am shift in an eight bed ICU, we had five codes between 7pm and midnight (only one was successful). By the end of the shift, it looked like a bomb of trash had hit. The pharmacy said by the time we were done, there were only three locked code drug boxes in the hospital.

    In the ER, we had a 300lb lady come in by ambulance. In the process of moving her to our stretcher, she rolled over and ended up face-down on the stretcher. She announced "I have to poop" and what seemed like several gallons of diarrhea shot out, almost hitting the ceiling, and obviously making a messy, slippery floor. Of course, she promptly stopped breathing. It ain't easy coding someone face down, while slidding around on poop.
  14. by   Indy
    My nights have been pretty tame compared to the 4 or 5 code nights. Good grief. Those nights would have had me wanting beer and eggs for breakfast!

    Ok but the first code on any unit I was working on, was quite a night. I had one patient with no legs who was my "good" patient. One guy getting blood who was a bit forgetful and could go in and out of A fib, whose wife probably decided to get some rest and was not staying the night. One cocaine user who wouldn't tell me how much he drank, just that it was two days ago, and he was on a bowel prep for colonoscopy the following AM. Good man, he drank all his golyte before 9 pm. One other patient, that I can't remember anything about.

    I was maybe a month or so off orientation, too. So I knew to watch for DT symptoms in the one patient, and the night before, when I had admitted him, I left that AM telling dayshift to please get me some tranxene or ativan or something for him when the doc rounds... that didn't happen. So, just before 4 am, I get my VS on my patients and I find this patient eating pepper packets, paper and all, sweating bullets, high BP and just acting kinda squirrelly. Oh, and he's had no sleep 'cause he's still pooping buckets.

    Come out of the room, to tell my charge that I got a DT's in progress and this blur goes past me while I hear tele alarms. Loud ones. Phone rings, tele's screaming at me "get to XXXX's room" well okay thanks; I hang up and grab the code cart and just about turn it over sideways. Turn around, charge nurse is walking by saying "well he's fine, he's peeing." So I try to fit the stupid cart back in its cubbyhole and it doesn't want to cooperate. Nurse goes back to her patient's room and as I'm fidding with the cart she screeches my name and darn near curls my hair with that noise; "get the code cart" .... Ok by now I've got the electric cord wrapped around my feet, the phone's ringing and the alarm's going off on the tele monitor. I couldn't figure out which way to move! Fortunately at that moment, a resp. tech walked by and said "ok who's coding?" I told her, she called the code and in about 10 seconds they were there. I had managed to untangle the cart and get it to the room by that point.

    No problem, eh. Well then I get A fib calls from tele on my guy who got blood. He.... um. is in A fib all right but he's standing naked at his sink, pleasing himself and chewing gum. Telemetry still on him, how, I don't know. I walked right out of there, called the doc on my fella who was in need of tranxene. I get orders for ativan. No problem, he has two INT's, one of which has NS running... right?

    Not anymore! He has poo in a wide swath from bed to bathroom, all over him, the whole toilet's a mess, he's sitting on it sideways, and his IV's are gone. The NS line end is sitting in the poo on the floor, leaking at a nice rate and adding to the mess. Hm. Oh yes the third nurse's patients, two of them picked out their IV lines about that time and bled all over creation because they were both on heparin.

    So a nice nurse shows up from another unit and asks what I need. I tell her there are at least 3 people who need IV's all of a sudden. She grabbed the tray and went to each room and restarted IV's, me and the third nurse went behind her cleaning up. Except for the fella with DT's, I didn't put her through that. As she's getting done, I go to see the naked guy with A fib who's now in sinus. I get his gown on and realize, his INT is on the floor. So we restart his IV and get him "settled" but he refuses to get in the bed. Instead, this fella stayed by the window, standing up, sleeping. Ok.

    At 0700 I was cleaning the entire room, bed, and patient (DT's) up for the third time, giving him his third dose of IV ativan, and he was starting to look more human, and pooping a little bit less. The GI doc was kinda surprised to find out I hadn't called him, to tell him that this fella wasn't going to be able to have a colonoscopy that day. I prettymuch ignored whatever he had to say about that. One nurse from dayshift was kinda ill with me for not putting the patient without legs on the sling scale to get his weight. Heck, I hadn't weighed anyone. And at that point, I wasn't worried about it.

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