Nurses are bound to see some pretty interesting things during their shifts. While some situations are easily forgotten, others have the tendency to stick with you for life. The following stories reveal that nurses and patients alike can see some memorable events in hospitals and institutions.
#1 Justice Was Served
My aunt was a pharmacist in a psych hospital in Iraq. She told me that a family brought their son in (he was previously detained by Saddam's security) and the young man was admitted as a severe case. He then started to hold imaginary trials and sentence people. One day, they did find another patient attacked and the young man was standing next to him shouting, "Justice was served."
#2 Too Slippery
This was actually in a state hospital that’s part of the prison system for mentally ill offenders. One patient asked for Vaseline, which is fine. But this patient was given a whole tub, so of course, he stripped down, covered himself in Vaseline, and ran. It was a secure unit, and he didn’t escape, but we couldn’t get him back into his cell all shift because he was too slippery. No more tubs.
#3 An Amazing Lady
I was a CNA for about four years and the saddest ever was my resident who constantly thought I was her daughter. She went to Harvard and was an extremely brilliant lady in her time. She was non-verbal but every time I walked into her room she would exclaim, “Elizabeth, you came.” I loved this lady so much, she would only eat when I fed her she was extremely combative with everyone but me.
I ended up quitting my job there but visited her every single day. It was to the point that her family kind of accepted me as their family. I finally found out that Elizabeth took her own life at 21 and the fact that she thought I was her gave her extreme joy. I never corrected her and I like to think I gave her peace when she passed holding my hand. She was an amazing lady and I miss her to this day.
#4 I Didn’t Order This
We had an older black lady who would walk up and down the ward, constantly mumbling. It never stopped. I think she would get something to calm her down, but she would fight it and her eyes would be all droopy. She'd slow down but she kept going. Nobody understood a word she said and she was there for at least over six months. She was punched out once by a patient while he was on the phone because she kept walking by, ranting. He just lost it.
I was up there doing a patrol one day (I was security) and she was ranting and walking up and down the ward as usual. They called her to come get her meal. She sat down, opened her tray, stopped ranting and stated clear as day, "I didn't order no diabetic tray, witch ." Every last person turned to her and all of our mouths were wide open. That was the only thing she ever said clearly.
#5 Gathering My Thoughts
Psych ward counselor here. Early in my career, I had a teenage girl with self-harm ideations and severe depression. The year before, on Thanksgiving, her dad ended his life in front of everyone. I normally form a response pretty quickly, even a "wow.” But when she told me, I got quiet, leaned back, exhaled, and had to gather my thoughts.
#6 Never Got Him Back
We had a psych patient on our floor that wasn't really "crazy" crazy, just really confused and unpleasant in general. One night, I was mixing his drink with some thickener, and per usual, he started yelling about me slipping something in his drink. I explained what it was and that we were all there to help him, not hurt him. He responded with, "I'm just going to pass away." His vitals were fine, he was alert, no red flags, and like I said, he was always pretty unpleasant, so I didn't think much of it. Sure as heck, he coded an hour later and we never got him back.
#7 Finding the Stash
I’m not a nurse, but a pharmacist. I had one of our Clozapine patients miss a monthly meeting to discuss their medication. I called around and found out she was in the ICU having bitten two of her own fingers then visited her mother for coffee. I had a friend tell me of another patient who made a cut in his thigh and reopened it regularly. He started using his "pocket" to hold pens, coins and anything he could collect in his ward. Nobody knew until a paperclip pierced the side and he finally wound up with an infection that took him to ICU where they found his stash.
#8 See You Later
My former best friend wasn't a nurse, but did an internship at a psych ward for adults and part of her internship was supervising the adults outside in the garden. She made sure they didn't harm themselves, others, or run away and to talk to them. She and about five patients were outside on a beautiful summer day, each relaxing in silence. Until one woman, about early 70s, took her chair, pulled it right next to my friend. She stepped on it, clumsily climbed the stone wall surrounding the outside, yelled "Bye, witches!" and ran away.
My friend and the others just sat there, staring after her, not being able to believe what they'd just seen. She was found 15 minutes later, just wandering through the city looking for something to drink. I just can't help laughing at the thought of this granny climbing the wall and yelling "Bye, witches" while waddling away.
#9 Anything Can Happen
Honestly, as a nurse with patients that are frequently on a one-to-one status, anything can happen. We use agency staff for these assignments and literally their only “skill” as it relates to their assignment is to watch the patient. Lots are patient care associates and will help with tasks, but that’s not their “job”. So it can be hit or miss with these staff members. Also, we don’t use physical force with patients unless we’re endangered. If a patient isn’t actively harming me, I cannot use any part of my body to “force” a patient to do anything. We call security, but patients get in all types of trouble even with a sitter.
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#10 You Can Never Leave
I was a patient around a giant dude. The guy had an outburst but afterwards ended up being medicated to the point of needing the walls to help him walk. He also needed a towel to wipe away his drool. That scared me more than the giant dude himself. It felt like a movie where once you go in, they never let you out.
#11 Trading Favors
When I was a teenager in a (poorly staffed and poorly funded) mental hospital, there was a male psych nurse who traded contraband like medication or cigarettes to teenage girls. He actually exchanged all of those items for inappropriate favors. He was a giant creep and I honestly couldn’t stand the guy at all.
#12 Worst Case
My father used to work in Aradale and J-Ward (Australian insane asylum and prison for the criminally insane, respectively) in the ‘70s. His worst story was about a psychotic woman in Aradale. She had self-inflicted scars all over her face from scratching herself, self-imposed bite marks all over her body, and she had the nasty habit of chewing the inside of her mouth and spitting at you, hoping you'd catch one of the myriad of diseases she carried.
#13 That’s My Tooth
I'm an RN in a psych hospital and I've seen some things. One of the things I'll never ever forget was we had this manic guy who had been transferred from another unit cause he kept getting in fights over there. All the other patients were trying to attack him. I was still working nights back then and at about 3:00 a.m., he came up to me, said his tooth hurt and he needed to see a dentist right away.
I said I didn’t have a dentist for him to see, but when the doctor came in the morning, we could take a look. I gave him some Tylenol and sent him back to bed. About five minutes later, he came out saying it really hurt and he needed to see a dentist to pull his tooth. Again, I told him there was no dentist but I could get some more pain meds.
In the middle of me explaining this to him, he stuck his hand in his mouth, ripped his molar out of his head and handed it to me. Red started pouring out of his mouth but he didn’t even seem to notice. After I cleaned him up and got the gushing to stop, I called the doctor to get him some Ativan. He then went, "Make sure you give me that tooth back when I leave. That's my tooth, don't try and steal it.
#14 Clean Up Your Mess
I used to work in a facility that used locked room seclusion for dangerous individuals. The number of times I've had someone wet themselves and then decorate the walls with it in an attempt to "punish" the staff is ridiculous. Most people only tried it once because they found themselves locked in a reeking little box until they were calm enough to be safe. We passed them a bucket of water and a washcloth. No leaving until you clean up your mess, buddy.
#15 Things Like That
I’m not a nurse, but I used to be a security guard in a hospital. We had a lot of patients who did some unspeakable things, but there’s one I’ll always remember. This one patient self-harmed and actually dug a pocket around their belly button to stick a bunch of paper clips and buttons and things like that into it.
#16 Discharged Patient
Pharmacist here. I had a patient getting discharged from the ER when they found out two police officers were waiting outside to take them in on an outstanding warrant. The patient grabbed the doctor's coffee mug, smashed it on a desk and then tried to end her life with the broken mug. It caused lacerations needing stitches, but nothing serious.
#17 Unspeakable Horrors
Probably the saddest was a resident I had a long time ago. This gentleman was a WWII vet with Alzheimer's and dementia. Probably once or twice a month he would relive some battle he was in. He would literally run up the hallway, grab you and yell at you to get down behind the sandbags. He would then tell you to take his Thomson because it was too heavy for him. Then, he would get up and run back down the hallway. This guy was old and seeing him run full sprint like that up and down the hallway during one of his episodes was surreal. I can't imagine having to constantly relive the worst moments of your life where you witnessed and survived unspeakable horrors.
I was interviewing a guy in a psych ward and he was complaining about how he couldn't have any white-out. He claimed it was stupid because if he wanted to end his life, as he pointed out, he could use the drawstring from the blinds or his pencil. I agreed it was silly to hold back the small bottle of liquid. When I relayed the conversation to my instructor about how silly it seemed, she replied that he proved to me that he had been considering ways to end his life and that's why he was able to come up with so many, so quickly. He never did get his white-out.
#19 Surprising Energy
My grandmother worked in a nursing home years back. I remember driving with her and seeing one of the patients, who obviously escaped, walking down the street in a hospital gown. It’s amazing how much energy an 80-year-old dementia patient has. We put the patient in the car and drove him back to the nursing home.
#20 These Things Happen
My sister was actually sectioned earlier this year for her eating disorder and she was right next to the PICU (psychiatric intensive care unit). One of the nights she heard multiple screams coming specifically from that ward. One of the patients had bitten a nurse’s leg as they were trying to detain them. It’s crazy to think these types of things happen.
#21 Charisma’s On Point
We had a gero psych floor, basically full of old people. One night, a little old lady popped her head out her doorway and said to me, "I could sure use the company of a good-looking young man tonight!" I replied, “Sorry, I'm not that good-looking." Quick as snot on a doorknob she said, "That's okay, I can't see too well." I didn't join her, but her charisma was on point.
#22 Don’t Change the Channel
I'm not a nurse, but was a patient once. This giant dude got upset because one dude changed the channel from a football game he was watching. He hit himself over and over. It was enough that when they brought him back a few days later, he started seizing and had to be removed again. I didn't see him again. Also, there was one lady who was straight out of the movies. She’d walk around preaching the end of days loudly and swearing like crazy.
#23 Hiding the Spoon
When I was in nursing school, I had a clinical in the state-funded psych ward downtown. I was assigned to sit with this one girl to “monitor” her behavior. She spent about 30 minutes doing nothing but eating pudding cups with a plastic spoon. She ate like six of them in half an hour. Then, out of nowhere, she very calmly licked her spoon clean and pulled her shirt sleeve up before shoving the entire spoon into an incision in her arm. Then very calmly, she said, “Oops.”
The nurses that worked there didn’t believe me. They kept saying I was making it up and that I couldn’t have seen what I saw. Only later on, the orderly noticed the girl had some red on her shirt. He took her into her room to change her clothes and noticed that an incision on her arm had dehisced. They then agreed to send her to the hospital for testing.
The X-ray showed the entire spoon. Apparently, the girl had slowly been picking at the sutures and opening it bit by bit until it was deep enough to fit an entire plastic spoon. The girl admitted that the “oops” was because it had gotten sucked in and couldn’t be pulled out, not because she’s stuck a spoon in her arm. Totally bizarre.
#24 Any Lisa Stansfield Fans?
Not a nurse, but I’ve had several stays on psychiatric wards for bipolar. To be fair, on most occasions, I didn't enter the wards in the most rational and stable state myself, but what has tended to happen is that even when they bring you back down to earth, you can end up staying for an extra month or two before they let you go. So, I spent some time on psychiatric wards completely sane if not maybe firing on all cylinders.
I’ve seen a few shocking things. What tended to leave me speechless was the abruptness of certain behaviour and its total incongruence with facial expressions, etc. For example, watching a TV when a five-foot-tall woman calmly walks over, lifts the TV up and throws it into the wall with great force. Then, she calmly sits back down in an armchair declaring that the TV was ruining her painting (she wasn't painting). She never even raised her voice. She then immediately asked me, as if it was somehow related, if I liked Lisa Stansfield.
#25 Code Yellow
A code yellow (missing patient) was called and eventually, we (my fellow inpatients and I) recognized that it was a frequent escapee from one of the long term programs. We joked that he had hitched a ride on a train that had come through town around the same time. Turns out, that’s exactly what happened and they ended up picking him up a couple of towns over.
#26 Not For Me
I visited a prison for a warden job and went to see the constant surveillance guys. There was a fella there who used a razor on himself for fun. He also started using the hole, which wouldn't heal, as a hiding place. A towel was found stuffed in there, which his body had started fusing to. Apparently, he was quite nice but the whole thing wasn't for me and I didn't go ahead with applying.
#27 You Can See Them
I was a patient in a psych ward. The ward was sectioned into two sides based on case severity. I was on the less severe side. One night, an incredibly tall, somewhat muscular man escaped his room on the severe side. He got through a door that was supposed to be locked, got into the less severe side, and into my room. I woke up, sat up, and saw him standing in my doorway. He asked in a shaky voice if I was alright. I hesitantly said yes, to which he got a look of terrified horror. He then screamed, "I knew it! You can see them too! Don't let them get you!" before he was dragged away screaming by security.
#28 Nothing Happened
We tazed a guy once and he took it like a champ. He then pulled out the barbs, handed them back to the officer and told him that wasn't very nice. Another one liked to do number two, play with it, then go around shaking hands with unsuspecting people. One of my faves though was a guy who was walking down the hall one time and paused. He then shook his right leg and a number two rolled out onto the floor. He then kept walking like nothing happened.
#29 All Sorts of Stories
My sister has been a psychiatric nurse for around 10 years or so and has told me all sorts of stories about her times. She was physically attacked on an almost daily basis and has been threatened with everything you can imagine. People have thrown, smeared or ingested pretty much every bodily fluid available on the wards. She has just finished a degree retraining as a teacher because she no longer enjoys the profession.
#30 Cordless Phones
I’m not a nurse, but I used to be a tech at a psych facility. It was my first job out of college. I was left pretty speechless when a teenage girl patient reached over the desk, grabbed hold of the phone, and wrapped the cord around my neck. After several similar incidents, the hospital switched to cordless phones.
#31 Screaming Banshee
Years ago, I was a student nurse doing my psych rotation in a Catholic facility. The nuns still wore habits and the building was like something out of the dark ages. I’ll tell you about Maggie. She was a tragic case. She had been on Lithium for years and it really kept her psychotic episodes in check until she reached toxic levels and could no longer take it.
One hot summer afternoon, we heard this banshee screaming coming from Maggie’s room. We rushed in there to see what was going on. Entering the room, we were greeted by a scene I will never forget. This late-70s woman was standing on the window ledge, free as a jaybird, screaming through the window screens at the nuns in the courtyard, “You penguins are going to burn in.” The poor sisters scrambled to and fro, trying to get away from the ranting madwoman’s vicious verbal assault as we desperately tried to pull her off the grating. I knew then and there, that I would never become a psych nurse.
#32 Sparing the Fleas
I’m not a nurse, but a former patient who helped out since I’m surprisingly stable even if very weird and uncanny at times. This one time, a co-patient apparently came in with so many fleas, it was amazing. Turns out, he didn't wash his hair for the last few months so besides being oily, it was also full of fleas. When asked why he didn't wash the hair, he reasoned that he didn't want to drown the fleas. I mean, it is solid reasoning but kind of stupid.
#33 Right as Rain
I saw a bipolar woman bring a man out of full catatonia with an inappropriate gesture. This was years ago, security wasn't as tight as these days. Somehow, this extremely manic woman got into that guy’s room. Now the guy, let's call him Gary, had been catatonic since we got him. He couldn't care for himself at all, he would just stare all day long. Well, I guess she must have sucked the depression right out of the guy because he was right as rain afterward. We found them at the end of the session.
#34 Mysterious Liquid
I’m not a psych nurse, but an emergency room tech. I once saw a patient drink a mysterious yellow liquid out of a urinal bottle. I found out from a staff member who started their shift earlier in the day that he had poured his ginger ale into it a few hours ago. Those few minutes before we found out? Priceless.
#35 Okay Then
As a patient, the nurse took my details. Meanwhile, in the room, a random, quiet knocking could be heard. I was like some old machine did some work in the other room. This nurse was calmly writing my details and then started screaming "Mary, stop. I can't let you out until the tests run." I was like, “Well, okay.”
#36 One of His Spells
I got assigned to a child's psych ward in a hospital where I worked. It was an easy gig where I could wear street clothes and not do much but pass out meds and observe. This one 15-year-old overweight, black kid was sitting beside me casually discussing his day. Suddenly, he jumped up, began screaming like a banshee and flailed around. I was befuddled as to how to control him or the situation. After a few minutes of twisting my nerves into a tight ball, he stopped, sat back down and began talking casually again. He had one of his "spells.” I’m not sure if anyone has ever been that close to a raving maniac while he's having a fit, but it's disarming to say the least.
#37 Enough For One Shift
I was a tech in nursing school and I was floated to the Geriatric Psych unit. The AC went out in the hospital in July in the south. The unit was a locked unit so we couldn’t even open the doors to improve airflow. My job that day was to hustle up and down the unit trying to convince sweaty old people to keep their clothes on. After 12 hours, I was exhausted and had seen so many elderly private parts that I nearly quit. The AC was repaired during the last 20 minutes of my shift.
#38 Oh, Thank God
My ex and I saw a marriage counselor who did part of her psychiatry residency at a hospital for people with severe mental conditions. Apparently, the grounds had a lovely, enclosed greenhouse. One day, one of their schizophrenic patients was sitting on a bench as a heron frantically flew around. It had found its way in and, not being able to escape, it was smashing into the large panes of glass. The man just sat there watching. Finally, my counselor asked him if the bird was bothering him and he kind of sighed and said, "Thank God. I thought I was the only one seeing that."
#39 Are You Ready?
Not a nurse, but I was a patient. The first person I shared a room with was sitting up and staring at me throughout the night, so I switched rooms. This next room was even worse. I got woken up in the middle of the night with this woman legit braiding one side of my hair. When I woke up she said, “Are you ready for the cruise? I’ve packed all of your things.” At the end of my bed was all of my folded clothes. I screamed and someone had to sit between us the whole night.
#40 Going on Vacation
Last year, my sister was in a psych ward because she was planning to self-arm. A kid tore a water fountain off the wall. Another kid screamed for his shoes. My favorite was a kid whose mother told him he was going on a vacation but instead admitted him into a psych ward. Then he screamed to one of the staff, “That witch lied to me!”
#41 Giving Them Up
I work in administration at a pediatric psychiatric acute stabilization hospital. Basically, it’s a child psych hospital whose purpose is to stabilize psychiatric crises during a short stay. It always makes me sad when a parent reaches the point where they have to give up custody of their child in order for their child to get treatment. The mental health system in my state sucks and the only way for some of these families to get long term psychiatric treatment is to give up custody of their child.
My sister-in-law is finishing her nursing degree, and they had to spend a couple of days working at some psych wards. She told me a story about these two guys who were schizophrenic and violent. One was the skinny little white guy and the other was a medium-build black guy. The black guy kept telling her that he wasn't crazy, that he was actually the owner of the ward and just stayed there for fun. He also told her he had a record label. So then she goes and meets the white guy. According to him, he was an up-and-coming rapper who was such a threat to Eminem's career that the deep state had him locked away, and that the psych ward owner was his new record label. Fun times.
#43 Paper Plates
I was studying and this guy began to freak out and carved into himself. I never thought it was possible, but considering he was a former powerlifter, maybe it's possible. The guy was like 6'6 and had to be kept under constant supervision as he'd once tried to attack the compounder with food plates. He was then only given a paper plate.
#44 Red Tape
My sister has been a psych nurse for nine years. She told me that the worst part isn’t really the patients, but the overwhelming regulations that they’re under. For better or worse, they can do nothing to defend themselves else they lose their jobs or end up in court. It’s sad because she really wants to help her patients, but can no longer live with the stress of wondering what line is waiting to be crossed that would cost her her career. She’s now transferring out to a different type of nursing.
#45 My Last Day
I was a patient when I was 16. On my last day, a kid refused to take his meds, some of which was to help with his withdrawals. Later that night, he started hallucinating and was feverish. He ended up shattering the cast he had on his arm, rebreaking it in the process. He then proceeded to chew through the remnants of the cast and then into his arm.
#46 World Peace
I had a schizoaffective patient come up to me and tell me he liked to be called "Christ.” He then proceeded to tell me that he had a super important plan to save the world. All I had to do was get a fax so we could send a message to Obama, the pope, and Nelson Mandela. They would "figure out world peace real quick."
#47 He Doesn’t Know That
A guy I knew used to work in a psych ward. This one patient was talking to a hallucination. My friend asked the patient, "You know he's not real right?" and the guy's response was, "Well, you know he is not real, and I know he's not real. But he doesn't know he's not real." For some reason, that always stuck with me.
#48 Hitting the Sprinklers
I was told this story by a friend, but a patient at the ward she works at tried to escape once. He picked up his mattress and used it to knock out the ceiling tiles. He then proceeded to climb out through the ceiling. The only problem was he hit a sprinkler and this set off the system over the whole ward at about 4:00 a.m.
#49 Stories to Tell
My grandparents were nurses. They had one man in permanent isolation because he had tantrums and would end the lives of men with his bare hands in seconds. Another inmate attacked someone with a spoon and his teeth. A friend mentioned a man she treated who had hurt himself and refused to take any anesthetics.
#50 Catching Flies
My aunt is a psychologist in a secure mental unit in the UK. Recently, she said she was working with a patient. He was talking as a fly was buzzing around the room. Apparently, he grabbed the fly in his hand, ate it then carried on talking like nothing had happened. She never really talks about her work so that obviously left an impression on her.