What Could Go Wrong Series? The Intoxicated Patient

What Could Go Wrong Series – The Drunk Patient

Medical shows love to use imaging procedures in their episodes, but often times the scenes do not follow a realistic procedure protocol or the drama is escalated in over the top scenarios.

Everything from doctor’s running the MRI machine to using the wrong probes or technology in ultrasound, our television shows get the details wrong more often than right. Good thing most actors are easy on the eyes so we tend to forgive the script errors a bit more.

In an effort to provide positive change and help writers produce accurate material for their story lines, the What Could Go Wrong Series will reveal realistic scenarios that could (and likely have) happen in a medical setting.

Imagine an intoxicated patient comes into the x-ray department from the ER for multiple images of an extremity. They’ve recently been involved in a fight.

The technologist has to position the patient’s extremity into a painful posture to get diagnostic images. The patient cusses the radiographer. They haul off and hit the healthcare professional, knocking her to the floor. She gets back up, dusts herself off and dives back in, calling for help to restrain the patient.

Unlike most TV shows where a slew of physicians rush in to aid the staff, some doctors will remain in their offices or in the ER department tending to other patient cases. If we wait for them to intervene, the attacker could inflict more damage.

In real life, other x-ray team members will help by entering the room and donning lead shields. They will hold the patient in position while another radiographer takes the image from outside the room. Healthcare workers will act in the moment and move as a team to keep the scenario under control.

If for some reason, a physician is nearby or in the department, then they might help with the situation. However, most radiologists read from their offices, and ER doctors remain in their work space taking care of other trauma cases. From their locations, they might not even hear what has happened in the radiology suite.

Real World Facts

Radiographers and other healthcare professionals must deal with verbal patient abuse. When things turn physical, we must stay calm and keep a clear head.

A 2017 study by the National Institute of Health determined that patient to worker assault in the healthcare setting was a serious occupational hazard with front line staff being at a higher risk for Type II violence. (Arnetz, 2017)

These scenarios impact the employee’s well being, decrease morale, and can cause depressions or even post-traumatic stress long after the incident is over.

New Storyline

Now, imagine a TV character with this story line. A drunk patient attacks the healthcare worker, a nurse, doctor, technologist, etc. and the emotional and psychological stress impacts every area of their life for several months. Even after the patient sobers, the effects of what he’s done could provide issues in his life and or recovery.

Sounds like an episode or two with loads of drama yet realistic to real world healthcare.


Arnetz, Judith E, et al. “Preventing Patient-to-Worker Violence in Hospitals: Outcome of a Randomized Controlled Intervention.” J Occup Environ Med, Jan. 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5214512/


Shannon Moore Redmon writes romantic suspense stories, to entertain and share the gospel truth of Jesus Christ. Her stories dive into the healthcare environment where Shannon holds over twenty years of experience as a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer. Her extensive work experience includes Radiology, Obstetrics/Gynecology and Vascular Surgery.

As the former Education Manager for GE Healthcare, she developed her medical professional network across the country. Today, Shannon teaches ultrasound at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College and utilizes many resources to provide accurate healthcare research for authors requesting her services.

She is a member of the ACFW and Blue Ridge Mountain Writer’s Group. Shannon is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. She lives and drinks too much coffee in North Carolina with her husband, two boys and her white foo-foo dog, Sophie.