Accidental injection

Posted on April 11, 2013 by in Nurse Stories

needlefbI was a new graduate nurse (approximately 4 years ago) and thought it would be fun to demonstrate to my patient the proper way to use her expired epinephrine pen.

She was concerned because she was starting to have an allergic reaction, had an epi-pen, but didn’t know how to use it!

That’s where I, the naive, fresh-licensed-nurse of 3 months,  came in.

I thought it would be great to teach my patient how to use her epi-pen by demonstrating on a tissue box.

Easy: I inject the epi-pen into the box so she can see how it’s done.

A more seasoned nurse would have double checked to make sure that the injection part of the pen was going into the box, and not into her thumb.

No, not me.  I got the box, went for it, and injected my right thumb with enough epi to cure anapylaxis!  Brilliant!

I will never forget the look on my patient’s face.

As I tried to pry the pen that was lodged into my thumb, my patient’s face was getting paler.

What do new nurses do in times of distress after embarrassing themselves in front of their patients?

Flee the room.  STAT! And don’t turn back.

I ran to find the next nurse that would make eye contact, pulled him aside and told him what happened.

The charge nurse caught wind and sent me to employee health, never to return to that same patient.

4 hours, 1 x-ray, 2 motrin, and a pale, vaso-constricted thumb later, I returned to the ER and to my assignment (with maybe 1 hour left to spare of my shift.)

I’m not gonna lie, I was so relieved that the patient wasn’t there, she was long gone.

What kind of ding-dong scares their patients like that?

Questions for you: That’s my new grad story, do you have one? Anything embarrassing happen to you when you were a newbie on the job?

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14 Responses to “Accidental injection”

  1. Avatar of Brock-MN
    Brock-MN
    11 April 2013 at 12:02 PM #

    I could only imagine how big your eyes got once you realized you missed the box!

  2. Avatar of Lesley Bonner
    Lesley Bonner
    11 April 2013 at 12:19 PM #

    Not a graduate nurse but still a newbie at the time, I didn’t inject myself with meds but rather while giving Lovenox to a an older patient, you know the patient with hardly any body fat? I stuck MYSELF right through patient….in and through his skin into my finger! Somehow I managed to not panic, removed gloves, scrubbed hands and immediately went to Charge Nurse and to the ER. My patient was more concerned for me than himself and thankfully fully cooperative with the blood work he had to do to ensure I wasn’t exposed to anything!

  3. Avatar of Catherine Pascale
    Catherine Pascale
    11 April 2013 at 9:13 PM #

    Nurse_Frugal: Thank you for sharing. I did the very same thing to myself in Feb of this year. Thought how dipsy doodle I could be for doing something so simple and so wrong. I like to blame it on not having my morning cup of coffee =]
    I was and still am an LVN, working in the same Jr. high school health office. My goal was to administer the epi-pen to a student in need. In my haste, I applied the pen to her thigh and pushed with my thumb instead of grasping the pen and pushing with pressure. It was at that time – I realized it was upside down – just like a BS check – OUCH! Son of a gun – was that a wake-up call! When I realized what I had done – I grabbed another pen and correctly administered it to the student. The student was fine – no concerns. My mind started racing – sporadic thoughts – “what to do” – “uh oh” – “what are the effects of epinephrine” – severe pain radiating up the back of my head – volcanic migraine. I could feel the blood draining down into my body, was shaking inside, cold, sweaty, couldn’t write anything legibly, thumb turning pale blue. The 7th grade student was staring at me with a look of horror on her face. I called my supervisor – told her what happened and to take over – placed my head on the desk for a minute to collect my thoughts – she gave me the address for the closest urgent care and sent me on my way. I arrived at the urgent care – explained what happened – still took them an hour to see me. The PA listened to my story, quietly nodding, smiling, told me accidents happen. Sent me to the ER to have the MD look at me. Soaked my thumb in warm water to help open the pores and dilate the vessels. Lidocaine for the pain. Went home, had my coffee, ate a lot of chocolate, took Ibuprofen – nothing worked. Finally slept for a good 3 hours, survived. To this day – staff teases me about not wanting me to give them any shots. The student was more scared of seeing me go pale than the injection itself. Haven’t needed to use or give an epi-pen since. Love my job!

    • Avatar of Susan N. Gonzalez
      Susan N. Gonzalez 15 April 2013 at 3:58 PM #

      Thanks for sharing…as a graduate nurse that is currently looking for work I am terrified I’m going to do something like that! I will be more than careful with an epi-pen now!!!!

  4. Avatar of rufus
    rufus 17 April 2013 at 12:22 PM #

    As a newbe I was instructed to give a pt a pre-op for an IVP of 2 oz of Fleets Phos Soda. I went into the room and gave it to the other pt in the room instead. I immediately realized my mistake and went to my charge nurse who told me to go ahead and give it to the right pt, and tell the other pt what he had received. His response was thank you, I have been really constipated. We had a good laugh. No matter how long we have been doing this we will always make mistakes because we are human!!

  5. Avatar of glendaanderson
    glendaanderson 5 May 2013 at 8:26 AM #

    I had not graduated yet but was performing my preceptorship prior to graduation. Up until that time, I had never inserted a foley catheter on a female patient. But I was eager to perform one prior to going into a new job. I had two experienced nurses with me. I set up the supplies in the sterile field upon trying to open the betadine package, and that is what I mean trying, I could not get the notch to tear away. I pulled and pulled and then with a hard jerk manage to get the package open. Yea, you guessed it. I got betadine all over the patient, the other nurses, and myself. I was so embarrassed. We got cleaned up and started all over. A successful placement of a foley catheter was managed. I try to share this story with nursing students as they come through our facility. This way the students will know that mistakes happen.

  6. Avatar of Catherine Pascale
    Catherine Pascale
    28 October 2013 at 5:31 PM #

    Susan Gonzalez… I’m sure you will do fine… tricky part is to not let the patient see you “stressing” – keep your facial expression in neutral. Easier said then done. Good luck in your future roles.

  7. Avatar of Kelly Bolin-Hardin
    Kelly Bolin-Hardin
    9 December 2013 at 7:32 AM #

    Embarrassing mistakes happen to even the seasoned nurses…such as myself..I love to teach students and will snatch them for any skill available..This was a first year student and a hemovac drain.I was explaining about the drain and the function, and how to empty it…pretty straight forward. ..I went to pull the plug.and it was a little stuck…so I squeezed and gave it a harder tug..it came loose in a mighty splash of blood.which got all over me..my student in white..lol and the patient..it looked like a murder scene..A little awkward.. but the patient was giggling and the look on the students face was priceless..

  8. Avatar of Topaz
    Topaz 26 January 2014 at 8:25 AM #

    I was a fairly new grad back in 85 when I gave a patient IM morphine…back then we knew enough not to recap needles but sharps containers were in the nurse servers, (the cupboards by the doors). We wore uniform dresses a lot, white pantyhose, and proper nursing shoes, the kind with the air holes in the top….small little holes………….while I was standing at the bedside talking to the patient I dropped the syringe…yup….it went right through a tiny little hole and straight into my foot….heavy sigh…we were both tested, and we were both clean! Thank goodness!

  9. Avatar of Amanda
    Amanda 5 February 2014 at 6:33 AM #

    I remember, I was newbie nurse of maybe 6 mos. I was preparing to give an IM injection. I was excited to be giving my first IM injection as a “real” nurse. I pricked my thumb upon removing the cap to the needle. I didn’t think it broke the skin until a co-worker asked me if I was okay. Confused I said yes, why. Well…. I did pierce the skin, and I was bleeding quite a bit I was forming a small spot of blood on the floor. (Probably because I was expecting at the time.) I stopped the bleeding but I was mortified!

  10. Avatar of nickthenurse
    nickthenurse 15 April 2014 at 9:47 PM #

    As a new nurse of only a few weeks, I was doing insulin in a ltc facility (something I had done hundreds of times as a student) I located a resident by room number and photo in the MAR, called her by name, introduced myself and told her I needed to check her BG. After I got everything ready and checked her BG level I said “that’s really good!” She was at 98 after all. She then said “it should be, I’m not “Jane Doe”, and I’m not diabetic.” I was mortified, and so glad I had not administered any insulin before she told me I had the wrong resident.

  11. Avatar of Christy Bell
    Christy Bell
    23 June 2014 at 2:20 AM #

    I am so glad I’m not the only one that’s made this rookie mistake. I was working as a LPN at the time (now a RN) and my patient was very close to anaphylaxis. A more seasoned nurse was in the room with me and was managing airway. I immediately grabbed the epi-pen and was quickly trying to administer it, only the patient didn’t recieve it, I did. Let me tell you, an 18 gauge with that much force to the thumb HURTS! I realized what happened and dropped the pen. The other nurse looked at me and knew what I’d done. She calmly instructed me to get another while the patient, even in their state, was holding in a chuckle. I left the room, found another nurse and sent her back with the new epi-pen. My heart rate went up to around 225, I was pale and I thought my finger was going to fall off due to the vasoconstriction. Once word got out around my facility and everyone knew I would be ok, I became the butt of many jokes… That was six years ago and I still get teased for it today.

  12. Avatar of jenkinsba64
    jenkinsba64 7 July 2014 at 3:57 AM #

    I will never forget my first successful PIV start. I was so excited to see the flash of blood that I forgot to loosen the tourniquet. Blood was pouring out of the vein onto the floor as I attempted to connect the line. When I finished cleaning up my little mess, my patient smiled and said ” That was your first one, wasn’t it, dear.”

  13. Avatar of Kendra Rouzee
    Kendra Rouzee
    25 October 2014 at 2:21 AM #

    I wasn’t an RN when it happened, I was in nursing school working as a CA in an ER. We had a drunk college student who was completely unconscious but was still protecting her airway and breathing on her own, so no intubation. The nurses I worked with were having trouble getting an IV in the girl (who was truly a Jane doe because she had no id or anyone with her). We had about 4-5 people around her trying to at least get some blood from a straight stick. A nurse had stuck her and didn’t get anything. From sticking her prior to that she had run out of gauze. As I went to hand her some gauze as she was pulling the safety on the butterfly needle. So my finger got pricked. I didn’t think it broke the skin at first, but just like doing a BS I squeezed my finger and sure enough I started bleeding.
    I had to sign in to the ER myself, the house supervisor was called, and I had to sign consent for the needle stick blood work. The supervisor LOVED me that night. She joked with me about picking the worst patient possible for her to fill out the paperwork. The patient was a Jane Doe and unconscious. So she really couldn’t sign consent for her half of the blood work to be drawn, plus we had already had a hard enough time to get blood from her in the first place. We didn’t know who she was to get parents to give consent.
    My ER doc that night is one of the most wonderful woman I know. She told them to go ahead n get the labs and we would just have the Jane doe sign consent once we got her sobered up.

    All labs came back negative, Jane doe woke up and told us who she was, and signed consent. I went into her room and told her I had good news and bad news. Bad news being I got stuck by a needle that was used on her. Good news being that we both didn’t have HIV or anything else. God was definitely by my side that night.


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