What do you do..when you talked with another patient?


Have you ever talked with a client while thinking that they are another client? For example, have you ever greeted someone with a different name or the like?

(WARNING: Some rants included)

It happened to me one day (Good thing, I didn't talk enough to violate privacy...). I wasn't going to give any medication or going to touch the patient and so I didn't have my "right patient" check-x-three-practice "on".

Along the conversation, I realized that I got the wrong patient. I decided to go with "act like nothing unusual happen" and asked other generic questions. I thought that saying "Oops and sorry" wouldn't really change anything. It would just be a clarification that I messed up. =P

Anyway the patient didn't bother to tell me off and the next day, "s**t" happened. Let's just say, it's probably the most embarrassing moment in my nursing life. I got my whole race banned for certain tasks with this patient...at least that what was circulating around. (Great, as if we aren't discriminated enough).

I managed to do some damage control. (No thanks to my nurse-in-charge... I just know that she knew on the very day but she didn't even reprimand me.) I'm not going to play innocent but the "it's ALL my fault" part is just wrong especially when my race taken into a bigger context.

Still, in the end, I still don't know what to do if this ever happens to me again. Should I have said "sorry for the mistake", right there and then, on the first day? Would that have prevented the spiral? I now think that I should have.

How come they don't teach these at nursing school? =P

uRNmyway, ASN, RN

1 Article; 1,080 Posts

Specializes in Med-Surg.

Well I think if you made a mistake, you should have owned up to it. We are human, and mistakes happen. Luckily, this was one with no serious repercussions. You could have just said, 'I'm so sorry, I had you confused with another patient, you have a similar name/similar diagnosis/close room numbers etc. I normally check ID but since I wasn't doing any tasks or giving meds, I didn't. It won't happen again.' Which is what happened. I mean, you would have told your patient if you had accidentally given him another patient's meds, right? So why not just admit to something that had no actual repercussions, just a discussion with mistaken identities?

As far as this patient extending his distrust to everyone in your race, first, I'd like to say that maybe this was misinterpreted. It seems to me, at least in the South where I am, that often people hear 'Oh, I don't want so-and-so person to touch me' but because so-and-so is of a certain ethnic background that tends to be discriminated against, some people assume that is what is going on. This might just be a misunderstanding of what the patient said by someone who was already sensitive about this topic.

If it's NOT a case of misunderstandings, then you should address it with the patient anyways. I would say something along the lines of 'I know I made a mistake, and I very much apologize for it. However, my mistake does not extend to the skills and abilities of my colleagues of the same ethnic background and they should not pay for it.'

Let us know how things go!


142 Posts

^ Well, things are fine now. It's been days already. However, I wanted to check with other nurses if I have learned the right lesson from this situation. And the lesson is: It is BETTER to say Sorry immediately. :)

Funny, I practically said very same thing in your last paragraph and it really cleared things up. The patient did utilize our race in her complaint but she didn't mean to discriminate. Apparently, she didn't want to name names. The patient's actually nice. It was my colleagues who I worried more about as they like to be kind-of-superior from us.

Thank you for taking the time to respond. I still have a long way to go.