Marvin the Painted Lady

I had been a nurse for about a year and I loved working in my little LTC in a tiny town. The town was so small that the closest hospital was in a town about 30 miles away...and that town was so small that the hospital only had a doctor on call, there wasn't a doctor in-house 24/7. Nurses Announcements Archive Article


Marvin the Painted Lady

Our local pharmacy supplied all of our residents with their medication and the pharmacist was a grouchy man, who hated anything to do with our nursing home. The pharmacist had a bad habit of only labeling mediation with the resident's last name and first initial...our medical records nurse, followed suit and often only had the last name and first initial on medication sheets. That was one part of my problem one morning.

We had just admitted a married couple...Marvin and Marlene Hopkins. They were a sweet couple that still had an obvious love for one another and they always seemed so thankful for every little thing that the staff did for them. They were also very respectful of everyone and never teased or made jokes or negative comments about anyone or anything. morning I got in a hurry and wasn't paying attention as I should have. I didn't check my medication sheets carefully and I didn't think about what I was giving. I accidentally gave Marlene's breakfast pills to Marvin. Marvin ended up taking Marlene's vitamins and her blood pressure pill and her Premarin. I was mortified.

I called the doctor on call, who although he took the call at the nearest hospital, actually lived so far away that he didn't even know that the tiny town I worked in had a nursing home. I had to call the hotel where he was staying to tell him about my error and the desk clerk argued with me before connecting my call to his room because he had left strict orders not to be disturbed by anyone but the hospital. He had a reputation for being a bit of a jerk, so I was nervous about calling him.

He informed me that I am a very sloppy and irresponsible nurse and that there was no excuse for such a mistake. He told me that giving blood pressure medication and female hormones to a man who did not need them could have very dire consequences. By the time he was done, I was in tears. Then, he asked if he could speak to the resident and he talked to Marvin for about ten minutes. At the time, I had no idea what the doctor had said to Marvin, but something that happened later that day gave me a good idea.

I spent the rest of the morning feeling horrible about what happened and checking on Marvin so often that I'm sure he thought I was a pest. When Marvin came out of his room for lunch, he was wearing his wife's hat and he had toilet paper rolls under his shirt, so they resembled breasts (not really, but that was his goal). He also had enough lipstick, rouge, and eyeshadow on that he looked like Tammy Faye Baker. As he walked he swiveled his hips and blew everyone kisses while asking, "Have you ever seen anyone as pretty as me?" Marvin saw me, gave me a hug, and told me that the doctor told him that nothing bad was likely to happen to him after taking his wife's pills. He also suggested that Marvin play the trick on me.

This happened over ten years ago and people who have worked at the nursing home for a long time still talk about it. When Marvin passed away, his son told the story to friends and family after the funeral.

I am much more careful about thinking about what I am giving and making sure that it makes sense for the patient to be on the medication. I am also more aware that mistakes happen and that once the consequences are dealt with and a lesson is learned, there just might be a bit of humor. The nursing home and the pharmacist started putting full names on labels and medication sheets shortly after that.

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