Things I Have Done When Over-Tired

There’s been a lot of talk about working hours on this blog recently, as well as the risk that tired doctors pose to themselves and patients. That got me thinking about silly things I have done without thinking when I was exhausted. These all happened either at the end of a long call, or when I was post-call.

  • Been confused about not finding any good veins for an IV on a patient. Then the patient asked, “Aren’t you planning to use the tourniquet?”
  • Delivered Mrs Smith instead of Mr Smith to radiology for imaging studies (and then had to walk all the way back with her and return with the correct patient).
  • Used Vitamin B instead of Heparin to heparinise a syringe. The bottles were next to each other in the fridge and both had dark green tops. Fortunately, I noticed the error before doing anything stupid like breaking the blood-gas machine. (Which costs something crazy like ZAR150,000 to replace if broken.)
  • Called a Professor “uncle” – that was really embarrassing!

  • Walked into the OR with theater scrubs, but without a cap or overshoes. The scrub nurse was NOT impressed.
  • Sent blood for a cross-match in a biochemistry vacutainer instead of and EDTA tube.
  • Made really silly errors in exams.
  • Turned onto the wrong side of the road (luckily an empty road).

We all joke about these, because they are funny, and no harm occurred. But not all errors are harmless.

I also know that I am not the only one who does things like these when exhausted. I have a friend who, in his exhaustion, sent bloods with the pneumatic tube system… without putting it in a capsule first. The tube operators were very unhappy, not least because the shattered containers were an occupational hazard to them.

Who are we to assume that qualified physicians, with much bigger responsibilities, are not likely to make mistakes when working too-long hours?

Just a thought.

Keeping it light: have you ever done something laughable in a state of exhaustion?


  1. I thought I lost my pager, panicked, payed for a new one, and found it when I sat on it in my car when I left…. That was today 🙂
    I also think I fell asleep for just a moment of time when suturing a patient’s hand the other day. I just remember a sharp re-adjustment to consciousness with the suture needle through the first half of the wound! It still ended up looking ok 🙂

    1. Oh! Sorry you had to pay for a new pager, that’s crappy. Just goes to show what exhaustion can do!
      Pretty hectic about the hand. That totally would have freaked me out, I think especially because I’d be afraid of getting a needle stick!

  2. I usually work out in the morning before lecture. Once I packed my gym bag the night before in a tired fog and forgot to pack a bra and shoes for the day ahead, I didn’t notice until it was too late, there was no time to go home! I had to go to lectures bra-less and barefoot. I left as soon as I could.

    1. Oh my goodness! I can’t imagine having to show up for work in that situation – I think I would have freaked. I’m planning on doing gym in the mornings before work next year – so now I’ll always remember to keep some “extras” in the car, just in case!

  3. Ohh, I can’t imagine working a job like that. YOU ARE SO AMAZING. Truly. And just being that exhausted? I don’t think so…I’ve been exhausted enough to actually walk out the door with like my iPod and running shoes on and then stop and try and remember what I was doing. I kind of scared myself that time. Not sure if I was exhausted or just plain having a loony moment… >.> Heh. I’m glad nothing to bad has happened with these though. It’s to get to laugh then cry, right?!
    Thanks for stopping by @ Notebook Sisters!

  4. I can’t even remember all the stupid things I’ve done when tired, haha. Though I did basically drive into a pole in a parking garage once during exam week.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s