When Medical Professionals Are Hurtful

Meagan Esler

| Nov 11, 2011

Having diabetes means attending medical appointments regularly.  It's entirely possible that at some point, you experienced an incident in which a medical professional hurt your feelings, made a mistake, or told you something completely incorrect.  Medical mistakes do happen.  While most doctors and nurses are amazing and professional, they are also human.  Errors and inappropriate comments can occur.  Some simply don't understand all aspects of diabetes.

When I was about to have a surgical procedure unrelated to diabetes, the doctor's staff told me to take only a portion of my long-lasting insulin and to skip my fast-acting injection so that I wouldn't go low during surgery.  When I arrived at the hospital on the morning of the surgery, my sugars were high due to the lower insulin dose and all the stress.  The nurse actually scoffed and called me a brittle diabetic.  My husband and I were shocked.  

The nurse complained that she was having trouble starting my IV because of my high blood sugar, and she stuck me three or four times before I stopped her and told her I wanted the anesthesiologist.  She looked offended, but I was done being treated that way.  The anesthesiologist couldn't have been kinder, and he got the IV started on the very first try.  In the nurse's frustration, she had really hurt my feelings.  Crying before surgery and feeling like a failure isn't healthy for anyone.  When something doesn't feel okay, speak up and ask for someone else.

In another incident during a regular checkup, a nurse asked about my insulin doses while she was taking my vitals.  When I explained how much I generally took with a meal, she said "That's too much insulin."  Later, I found out from my diabetes educator that my insulin dose wasn't quite enough!  I had been made to feel like I was defective for needing the dosing scale I had, but now I know that we all have different requirements.  Make sure the person giving you advice is well educated about diabetes and has the proper authority to give you instructions.

I encountered another medical incident when I was in the hospital because of complications related to the flu.  I hadn't eaten in several days and was finally feeling better.  Unfortunately, my blood sugars wouldn't come down enough for me to eat.  I was tired, weak, and extremely hungry. The nurses checked my sugars each hour.  When my sugars started rising instead of falling, a nurse reprimanded me and accused me of having eaten something.  When I explained that all I had eaten was ice chips, which could not raise my blood sugar, she shook her head in disbelief.  Luckily, my sister was in the room, and she noticed something dripping on the floor.  Apparently they'd somehow disconnected my IV when I asked to use the restroom earlier in the day.  I hadn't been receiving my insulin for some time.

It's an excellent idea to have an advocate when you're in the hospital.  I always try to have a family member with me when I'm in the hospital because I'm stressed and not feeling a hundred percent, and I risk not noticing something important.  I'm confident, however, that most medical caregivers are not only well trained, but also have my feelings, care, and best interests at heart.  I trust my doctors and nurses to take good care of me, and I genuinely appreciate their kindness.



Click Here To View Or Post Comments

Categories: Blood Sugars, Brittle Diabetic, Diabetes, Diabetes, Doctors & Nurses, Fast-Acting Insulin, Hospital, Insulin, Insulin Doses, Long-Lasting Insulin, Medical Caregivers, Medical Mistakes, Medical Professionals

Take the Diabetes Health Pump Survey
See What's Inside
Read this FREE issue now
For healthcare professionals only
  • 12th Annual Product Reference Guide
  • Insulin Syringe Chart
  • Insulin Pen Needles Chart
  • Fast-Acting Glucose
  • Sharps Disposal
  • Blood Glucose Meters Chart
  • Insulin Pumps Chart
See the entire table of contents here!

You can view the current or previous issues of Diabetes Health online, in their entirety, anytime you want.
Click Here To View

See if you qualify for our free healthcare professional magazines. Click here to start your application for Pre-Diabetes Health, Diabetes Health Pharmacist and Diabetes Health Professional.

Learn More About the Professional Subscription

Free Diabetes Health e-Newsletter

Top Rated
Print | Email | Share | Comments (17)

You May Also Be Interested In...


Posted by Anonymous on 13 November 2011

This will date me but I frequently go back to the words in a song by Prince-"I just can't believe all the things people say."
We all have these experiences eventually, and some are more serious and hurtful than others. Just laugh when you can - it's a good thing that you're so smart about your own health!

Posted by Anonymous on 17 November 2011

You are a brave and wonderful lady. Type 1 is a chronic condition so it is tough on anyone who has it, to have to continue to manage it 24/7. Not easy. Then... to be treated badly, is not just hurtful, it is completely wrong. And yes, you are right to have an advocate with you. I have a son with Type 1 and I had to intervene when a nurse accused him (wrongly) of eating incorrectly. If these people walked for a day in the shoes of a person with Type 1, their eyes would shine with admiration for ever afterwards.

Posted by Anonymous on 17 November 2011

...and it's okay to change medical teams when you don't feel you're being treated as well as you could be -- even, as in my case, within the same practice! When I was first diagnosed, nurse actually laughed and shouted "Whoa!" at my sky-high numbers on that very first stick (while I was tearing up), then walked out of the room, laughing and yelling "Whoa!" out in the hall! I stuck with this medical team for a couple of years, despite the fact that we didn't see eye-to-eye on my care (The doctor thought following 'Atkins for Diabetes' was the stupidest path a Diabetic could take, even though I was under a specialist's care and my A1C was at 5%), until finally I made an appointment with another doctor in the same practice. It was the best move I ever made, and I haven't looked back since.

Posted by Anonymous on 17 November 2011

We have a really great health unit at work, but for awhile it was run by someone we called "Nurse Idiot". When I was diagnosed with Type 2, I was of course really upset, frightened, and overwhelmed by all I had to learn in order to manage it. When I went by the health unit to update my records, the Nurse "comforted" me by saying, "It's a GREAT time to have diabetes! They have made so many advances that a diagnosis no longer automatically means you will go blind, lose a limb, or end up on dialysis!" Uh, yes, that's all true, but definitely not what I needed to hear at the time. Now it's become a joke in my work unit: "It's a GREAT time to have diabetes! And cancer! And dementia!" Fortunately this Nurse is long gone.

Posted by Lisa Atwell on 17 November 2011

As a nurse I can tell you that speaking to a patient like that is inappropriate. It is one thing to teach a patient information that they aren't aware of, but being rude is something else. Every patient has a right to be treated with respect and diginity. Even if a patient chooses to ignore their diagnosis and do ALL of the wrong thing, this is still not an opportunity to be mean. If you or anyone else would find themselves in a healthcare setting and you are not feeling comfortable with the way things are going speak to a supervisor or manager. People are INDIVIDUALS not a diagnosis nor an illness. Even the best physicians and nurses need further education and with research and pharmacologic advances they still have to learn new ideas and new advances. It is never ok to demean the patient or make them feel stupid. I am a person who opted to have their pancreas removed in that came an islet cell transplant. I knew going into this what I was in for, that however does not give someone the right to make me feel small, stupid or uniformed. Life can be hard enough when your ill to have to deal with situations and circumstances beyond our control.

Posted by Anonymous on 17 November 2011

Nobody seems to understand about diabetes anyway unless they have someone in their family diagnosed and then only if they are involved in that persons daily care. Type I's particularly seem to have to battle misconceptions since most people think you just don't take care of yourself and eat too much sugar. To me it is always so sad that a medical person makes a strange remark because we look up to them for the position they hold. I agree with the post about changing your medical team if needed. Life is too short and medical care is too expensive to not have the support you need.

Posted by Anonymous on 17 November 2011

I have had Type 2 for 25 years. At one time I was hospitalized, with what turned out to be an inner ear infection, and I was very ill. I couldn't keep any food or liquid down.
I had my husband bring my glucose tester to me. As I was checking my blood, because of feeling low--a nurse happened to come in the room and yelled at me "You can't do that!" I informed her that I certainly could test myself, but that I knew that they could not use my test, but maybe they should be testing me more often.
Just one more instance of understanding your own body feelings.

Posted by Katenurse on 17 November 2011

I totally understand your frustration with the medical community. I would be hurt and disappointed with your experiences, and have had similar experiences. I am an RN, and went into the medical field because of my experience with doctors and nurses growing up with Type 1. From nursing school on, I have had to re-educate nurses on what the heck the proper way to deal with diabetes is. It has driven me up the wall. I have tried to teach MD's but they don't value the ideas of an RN who has had Type 1 since she was 10 months old. I agree with having someone with you when you are hospitalized. Be proud of the fact that you stood up for yourself.

Posted by BridieNZ on 17 November 2011

Great article thanks Meagan and oh so familiar.
During my 54 years of living with Type 1 I have experienced several similar incidents over the years and as a child was too frightened to question or stand up for myself... but now at 62 years of age, I stick up for myself when faced with inappropriate comments or treatment.

Posted by Anonymous on 17 November 2011

As a Diabetes Educator for 25 years who also was a Medical Floor nurse ( in smaller hospitals Diabetes Education is usually part-time) I know that most nurses do not have a lot of recent knowledge about diabetes.Things have changed a lot since they went to school and most of them don't keep current.Even the Internal Medicine Doctors don't keep current all the time.Misinformation abounds in the Medical community sad to say. Hopefully your own Diabetes Team gives you the support and correct knowledge that you need to self-manage your Diabetes.Reading the article and other posts challenges me to be a caring, sensitive health care worker.

Posted by Anonymous on 17 November 2011

I was a seasoned RN but once diabetes became personal for me (when my then 14-year-old was diagnosed), I gained a new appreciation and MUCH new knowledge. One of the first stupid things a nurse told my son while he was in the hospital after diagnosis was, "You'll never be able to go barefoot again." After she left I told him that was an extreme comment and asked if he understood why she had said. He said, "Because diabetics get their feet cut off." The whole exerience and process humbled me. A few years ago my now adult son was having surgery and would have had a hypoglycemic crash if not for RN mom having to argue with the pre-op RN. Thank the Lord I was checking his sugars and WHY I had to be in the position to argue with that woman to get her to consult anesthesia to hang a bag with 5% dextrose I'll never understand.

From first-hand experience in the nursing/medical profession, I fear it's about 60/40 in favor of competent, courteous, and compassionate caregivers.

Posted by Anonymous on 17 November 2011

After suffering a work injury.And complaining of severe wrist pain,I was sent to the company doctor.Thinking I had Carpal Tunnel.

I suffered from numbing and tingling running up my right arm for over six months.I thought I had carpal tunnel syndrome,but was diagnosed with a neck injury.All was well with the Dr. until I told him I was a diabetic.He proceeded to an analogy that in his opinion diabetes is worse than cancer and I would countinue to face painful experiences's for the rest of my life.I had an EKG by his cohort which showed up some carpal tunnel.The final report by the main Dr. all this condition was caused by diabetic neuropathy.My choice, steriod shot in spine or live with it.
My choice never see this Dr. again.
Six months later it was discovered I had a large cyst in my right wrist which was causing carpal tunnel syndrome and I needed surgery.
By my own doctor.
Working for a large company I have no recourse so I guess I have to "live with it".
But this Company Doctor's unproffesional treatment and anology has given me a will to fight this disease as hard as I can for the rest of my life.

Posted by Anonymous on 18 November 2011

Wow - I thought this 'rudeness' to patients was addressed by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Guess someone didn't read, or comply with, the guidelines. Sorry this happened to you - doesn't help with motivation to succeed against your diabetes either. Hang in there - you know your diabetes better than anyone else.

Posted by debcan518 on 19 November 2011

I always carry my diabetic testing kit = every where i go. i was rushed to the hospital's emergency room when having a stroke, which did not affect my ability to think. Nurse came in to check my sugar #. She said,"gosh its 513 that's terrible". she walked away and I took my own with my equipment. when she reappeared i told her her #s were incorrect and that my meter said 213.
she screamed at me saying you are in a hospital & not allowed to test yourself. I told her that i would not allow her to inject her insulin in me. she yelled and screamed at me. I told her to get away and call an Administrator immediately.
1/2 hour later an Administrator came down to me in the ER apologized saying that their meter (the one they were using in the ER) was not calabrated properly and they were sorry....... could you imagine if i was elderly, passed out or unable to know my body, or speak up. the differece between 213 and 513 insulin shot - especially while i was having a strok.... omg
So yes, meagan we must be careful. you are a wise girl, stay well and always be aware. ( the hospital was so.nassau communities hospital in oceanside, ny.)

Posted by Anonymous on 25 November 2011

i'm not sure what brittle diabetic means i thoght that it meant your sugars are just really unstable which mine are there really spestic.

Posted by Anonymous on 27 November 2011

My son's pediatric endocrinologist just turned his practice over to a new doctor. The first visit did not go well. After having the same endocrinologist since he was diagnosed eight years ago, he was hopeful that the new doctor would be like his old one. The new doctor used scare tactics and ridicule on the first visit. She continually asked questions like he was stupid and knew nothing about being diabetic. She told him about all of the things that could happen to him. My son is 17 years old and usually has a good attitude about his diabetes. It has been a week and he is still angry and upset. We will be looking for a new doctor. It is hard to believe that on a first visit a doctor would act like this.

Posted by Anonymous on 29 November 2011

I had a doctor tell me shortly after conceiving our second pregnancy "You need to get your A1c down to 4% so you don't miscarry like last time." I had an A1c of 6.5% when we conceived our first pregnancy, and miscarried it at the end of the first trimester- by no fault of our own. Miscarriages happen and I asked three different doctors to read over my labs and check the fetus to ensure the miscarriage was not due to my type 1 diabetes. They all confirmed it was not due to my medical care. When the doctor (I use the term "doctor" very loosely with this one) said "... lose this one like last time" in reference to my diabetes, I bristled. My husband was with me and he had to grind his fingers into the chair to keep from punching her in the face. I told her that type 1s very rarely can achieve a 4% A1c and that my miscarriage was not due to my diabetes care. Then I left her office and made my next appointment with another doctor. The second doctor was disgusted with the first's treatment toward me. The second doctor held my hand through my entire pregnancy and made sure she was on call and in the hospital when I came down with toxemia and delivered our first baby via emergency c section. The second doctor I owe my life, my sanity, and my baby's life to. There are a few good ones still out there... but unfortunately they are very few and far between.

Add your comments about this article below. You can add comments as a registered user or anonymously. If you choose to post anonymously your comments will be sent to our moderator for approval before they appear on this page. If you choose to post as a registered user your comments will appear instantly.

When voicing your views via the comment feature, please respect the Diabetes Health community by refraining from comments that could be considered offensive to other people. Diabetes Health reserves the right to remove comments when necessary to maintain the cordial voice of the diabetes community.

For your privacy and protection, we ask that you do not include personal details such as address or telephone number in any comments posted.

Don't have your Diabetes Health Username? Register now and add your comments to all our content.

Have Your Say...

Username: Password:
©1991-2015 Diabetes Health | Home | Privacy | Press | Advertising | Help | Contact Us | Donate | Sitemap

Diabetes Health Medical Disclaimer

The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, contained on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. Opinions expressed here are the opinions of writers, contributors, and commentators, and are not necessarily those of Diabetes Health. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website.