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A Dirty Needle Helped This Physician Get His Finances in Order

syringe needle

Often, it takes a big, scary moment to make us realize we need to be better prepared for an uncertain future. Dr. Peter Kim, a.k.a. Passive Income MD, had one of those moments one morning at the end of a long all-night shift.

Ideally, you have your affairs in order before it becomes necessary. We see reminders of our mortality all the time in our jobs. Most of us have coped with illness and death in of parents or grandparents.

Every time we wield a needle or a knife, we are taking a small risk. That risk is magnified if the instrument is used on a patient. Blood is one of the most efficient ways to spread many infectious diseases.

Our friend knows this, and it’s why he saw his life flash before his eyes when that dirty needle went where it’s not supposed to go. This post was originally published at Passive Income MD.


A Dirty Needle Helped This Physician Get His Finances in Order


It wasn’t the most fun way to end an overnight shift. After I finished placing my last epidural, I was cleaning up my tray when I mishandled the used epidural needle and it punctured the glove of my right index finger. Blood started welling up inside the glove.

I immediately ripped it off and poured betadine all over my finger. I quickly had a discussion with the patient and she confirmed that she didn’t have any blood-borne diseases that she knew of. However, to be safe, she agreed to have her blood drawn and tested.


syringe needle


Times like this remind me how fragile our careers and lives are. One careless mistake or accident can have lifelong consequences. As doctors, we’re focused on helping others in harm or pain, but we sometimes forget that we put ourselves and our families at risk in the process.

So, of course, my thoughts immediately turned to my family – are they ultimately protected financially if something happens to me?

Here are a few things I considered:

Disability Insurance


As physicians, we have to protect our most valuable income-producing asset – ourselves. We’ve spent so many years educating ourselves and honing our skills. In the case of an injury, we have to consider lost future income and how that would affect our ability to pay ongoing expenses such as school loans, mortgages, etc.

Fortunately, I’ve already covered myself to the maximum limit I can with specialty-specific coverage, an absolute must for anyone who is in a procedurally-based field. That way, if I injure my hand and cannot intubate, the insurance company can’t refuse to pay my claim and tell me to go back into training and or work at an urgent care facility.

Life Insurance


Do I have enough for my family in case I leave them earlier than expected? Right now I have $2 million of coverage for a 20-year term. Is that enough and a long enough period? When I originally got this 5 years ago, we didn’t have children and hadn’t bought our house yet.  I’m going to have to revisit that immediately.

[Update 10/18: I purchased another policy for a few more million for another 20-year policy. Wanted to have it in place in case I had some health issues that might exclude me from getting any more. I can always drop the policy if I feel secure and self-insured.]



Asset Protection


We’ve set up a family trust although we haven’t put our assets into it yet. I’ve been slow with the paperwork and I need to get on it, immediately.

[Update 10/18: I’ve moved most of our most important and valuable assets into the trust.]

Family Finances


I handle most of the finances in the family. If something were to happen to me, does my wife know how to access everything? Does she know what assets we have and how to handle them? We need to have a family discussion about this and should make it a regular part of our routine.


How Did It End?

Circling back to the story, I checked the patient’s records this afternoon and thankfully, everything was negative as she stated. I made it through this situation unscathed, but I shouldn’t let it come to something like this to make sure everything is in order.

Hope you’ve thought these things through as well. If not, today is a good day to start.

Oh and I made sure to give my wife and kids an extra tight hug tonight. Don’t forget to do that as well…


[PoF: This post is an introduction to the things you need to be thinking about. Note that a revocable trust is not an asset protection vehicle, but it does allow your family to avoid a prolonged and potentially expensive probate process upon your death. An irrevocable trust can be used for asset protection, and these can be complex.

One of the beautiful aspects of becoming financially independent is the fact that you can afford to go without disability and term life insurance. I no longer pay for either, but I considered them vital when I did not yet have enough assets to support my family in my absence. Now, we are self-insured.

Finally, I’d like to put in a plug for building some form of a legacy binder. This will show your loved ones who to call to access those insurances, how to log in to your accounts, and how your assets were meant to be used. 

One last thing: safety first. Double-glove it if you’ve got to, and do what you can to avoid those dirty needles!]


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What other considerations have you taken to make sure you and your family are well covered in case you’re not there to provide?

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7 thoughts on “A Dirty Needle Helped This Physician Get His Finances in Order”

  1. I guess we’ve all been there–as Gasem says, double gloving doesn’t really help you if that sharp object is going straight at you.

    I’ve even had fluids splashed in my eye before! Yikes!

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  3. I have had several near misses in my life. The almost head on collision with a dump truck, the time I was caught under water by the current, and a near hanging. We run risk every time we get in our car, get on our bike, get in a boat, or wake up in the morning. I’ve seen people trip on the carpet in their living room and die. I’ve seen people fall backward off a chair and break their neck. Danger is all around us and can come without warning. I wrote about this topic here which is a nice follow up to this story.


    Live life to it’s fullest and protect your family from disaster.

    Dr. Cory S. Fawcett
    Prescription for Financial Success

  4. Funny that things like this change your life: mine happened coming back home from a non stopping 24 hours call I fell sleep in the New Jersey Turnpike, fortunately nothing happened to me, but this afternoon I called an agent and bought life and disability insurance.

  5. Double glove won’t save you from a 17G trochar. Maybe chain mail gloves. I found the safest epidural procedure is to have a very strict regimen including exactly where each needle goes before and after use and then a strict clean up procedure. It sounds anal but the problem is variability and the risk that spreads into the situation. I did about 30K epidurals in my career and strict protocol of hand movement and adhering to that reduced risk of infection for both me and the patient. In my pain practice every movement was standardized and as long as I worked to the standard I was safe and efficient. As soon as you do something non standard then you have to change your attention to focus on what do you do with the now inserted increased risk.

    This is a great discussion. A revocable trust helps with probate, but location arbitrage can help with asset protection. In FL all of my stuff is Tenants by Entirety except my cars which are titled each in one spouses name.

    Glad you dodged the bullet PIMD!

  6. It’s happened to me twice, once in residency and once a few weeks ago. As a neurologist, I’m not frequently exposed to blood and secretions. That didn’t keep a big glob of sputum from a recent, bloody tracheostomy from landing in my eye from 10 feet away on a recent visit to the ICU! While the infectious disease attending told me that such exposure was a low risk for infection, that was insufficient reassurance for me. Luckily, the patient’s blood tests and mine were negative for HIV, Hep B and C. (Who knows what else was in there.)

    Keeping finances straight and self-explanatory seems to be an ongoing project. My father prepared a comprehensive “black book,” before he passed, and I’ve done the same, although mine is digital. it contains a list of all accounts and passwords. It’s the least you can do for your family, who will have enough to do after your gone without struggling to figure out how to pay the bills!

  7. I remember having a similar scare when I was in my surgery residency (did 2 years before I switched to radiology) and got stuck with a dirty needle during the frenetic pace of a trauma code).

    I immediately went through all the awful possibilities in my head of every blood bourne pathogen known to man. I didn’t have any dependents as I was single at this time and no kids but it was an extremely painful and frightening experience especially at that stage of my career.

    I too was lucky and all the bloodwork drawn from the patient was negative as well.

    People outside the field will never know the risks and sacrifices made doing our job. A lot of us have constant exposure to bodily fluids that could easily carry some transmissible disease.

    Glad it worked out for you as well Peter.

    • Dont think you need to be a doctor to understand the risks, it’s obvious that you guys face higher exposure to blood borne infections, that things can and do go wrong. I distinctly remember in high school trying to dissuade my friends from pursuing medicine. My specific concerns 1)the long training 2) long hours and 3)risks of infection, specifically HIV, that was my biggest concern. I’d take them through so many “what-if” scenarios but the poor suckers couldn’t be persuaded to do something safe, accounting perhaps. Now almost 20yrs after those high school conversations, I know at least one of my five friends who ended up in medicine has had an HIV scare. She accidentally pricked herself while working with an infected patient. Luckily she was ok. We understand the risks you face, we appreciate your service.


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