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The Story of Adam's Worst Shift

Updated: Feb 27

When it comes to Off the Chart stories of Heart and Humor - this one's pretty funny!

A frustrated male nurse putting his hand on his head with eyes closed.
What else could go wrong?

This is the story of my worst shift on a Med Surg ward at a major city hospital. Med Surg is always interesting with a good mix of high-risk, high-dependence, and highly confused patients. I’ll never forget two patients we had on a particular night shift back in 2015. The first, let's call him Ray, was a regular on the Med Surg ward. The poor guy had terrible pyoderma gangrenosum up both legs. We cared for him for several years on and off and got to know him really well. He was a lovely guy, but prone to infection and he’d often get septic and super confused. His favorite trick was to pull out his urinary catheter, balloon and all - ouch!

The other character in my story was a female patient named Ruby (alias)…the most hilariously delirious 80-something-year-old. Ruby had a raging UTI and absolutely no time for nonsense from anyone. Ruby was convinced she was at a bakery and couldn’t understand why we weren’t serving her bread. She had no intention of going to sleep that night. Anyway, it was the night shift, and I was in charge for the first time ever. Nervous and wanting to do a good job, I was petrified of anything going wrong.

It was a busy shift with a lot of pretty sick patients. By 0100, we already had 2 RRTs. The second of which had not resolved to any form of stability, so sure enough, she ended up coding. We called the code blue, and the patient was eventually transferred to ICU.

All staff on the floor were working hard and doing an amazing job, but unfortunately, with all the fuss, Ruby decided that she had enough of our bakery and made her way off the ward.

We noticed pretty quickly that she was gone but still couldn't find her anywhere! I even had the overnight hospital director help coordinate a search; the security guards were all on the job, but we still couldn't find her. Eventually, the police were called and notified of the situation, and then of course, we had to call her next of kin, who in this case, was her son.

It was 0230 at this point.

Now, I’m sure we’re all pretty grumpy if we get woken up at 0230 by a phone call. But imagine being woken up at 0230 by a phone call, only to be told by the hospital that they lost your mother! The son was understandably PISSED OFF. After copping an earful of “What the F*ck are you even doing there! You’re all f*cking useless!”, the son said he was coming in to help look for his mother.

At 0330 I get a call from security to say the son is there, and I tell them he can come up. We now have a skeleton crew left on the ward, as a few nurses have left to check the corridors and try to find Ruby. I’m nervous about the abuse I’m about to cop from the son. I hear the elevator ding down the hall, and then a man yelled a surprised and panicked “What the F*CK!?!” What the hell else could have gone wrong!? We all ran to look. The son was standing there, looking in horror at the figure on the floor.

It was Ray. In all his septic glory. Completely naked, dragging himself across the floor, with his catheter and his tattered leg bandages dragging out behind him. He legit looks like something out of a horror film. But, to really cap off the night…Ray then rolled onto his back right in front of the son and proceeds to yank his catheter out, through his urethra, balloon and all. The son simply looked up at me in absolute bewildered horror… I’ll never forget the look on his face. Anyway, Ruby was found soon after, safe and sound, having a nap in one of the outpatients' waiting areas on another floor. The son was actually very understanding once he knew his mother was safe, but said he still couldn’t understand how a urinary catheter balloon could fit through a man’s urethra…

For more stories like this one, pick up a copy of Off the Chart A Nurse's Journey

of Heart and Humor at

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