Doctor Misdiagnoses Patient As Mentally Ill Because She Was 'Patting Her Weave'

This is why medical professionals should be required to undergo cultural training.

black woman and surgeons in operating room Piron Guillaume and Kevin Turcios / Unsplash

The health care system is notorious for harboring many instances of racial bias and unfair treatment towards Black people and POC communities, and one nurse wanted to shed light on the subject through one experience of hers as a health care professional.

A doctor misdiagnosed a Black patient as mentally ill for patting her weave. 

Nurse and TikToker Nika Marie Noel (@nikaxnoel) posted a video of her experience witnessing a non-Black doctor wrongfully diagnosing a Black patient as mentally ill because she patted her weave, an intricate type of hair extension that allows for human or artificial hair strands to be sewn near the scalp of one’s natural hair.


Pairing her video with the “Law and Order” opening theme song, Noel captioned her video with, “Reason #212 why we have a need for black doctors/nurses to assess black patients or at least be a walking resource. The doctor said the [patient] was hitting her head with the palm of her hand, so she must be hearing voices.”

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“This girl was patting her weave,” she added.


People in the comments were disappointed by the doctor’s presumptuous remark and relayed their own experiences.

In response to a person’s reply that read, “Also, like why is their first thought ‘Shes hearing voices’ and not ‘Shes messing with her hair’ or. y’know. just asking her what she’s doing,” Nika commented, “Some people have been sheltered and don’t have experience with other cultures, and care less to study people and different cultures.” 

Another user wrote, “I had to help detangle a pt’s hair because the other staff just washed it and left her 4C hair as is. It was soo dreaded and tangled, so much fallout.”

One mother in the comments shared an experience her son had with a healthcare professional. “This is so real! my sons therapist asked if he had a tick due to him hitting himself during the session lol I was like he just got his hair braided,” she wrote.

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Nurse stands outside in green scrubs and explains the time a doctor misdiagnosed a Black patient as mentally ill when she was patting her weave.Photo: TikTok / @nikaxnoel

Research has shown that people of color are more likely to face difficulties in receiving quality healthcare.

It is a known fact that implicit bias is prevalent within the world of healthcare, and if this wasn’t already apparent in the past, the rise of the coronavirus certainly amplified these disparities among racial and ethnic minority groups. 

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One study revealed that Black patients were less likely to receive quality pain treatment as opposed to white patients; in lieu of being referred to a pain specialist, Black patients were more likely to be assessed for substance abuse. Another recent study shared that Black women are more than twice as likely to experience a pregnancy-related death than white women.

In short, implicit bias stems from the unconscious beliefs and attitudes that have been retained at an early age and formed over time, which directly (and harmfully) influence one’s perceptions and decisions about other people, places, and things. 

Along these lines, implicit bias can be particularly dangerous in healthcare spaces where marginalized groups are prone to misdiagnosis, disparities in treatment, communication barriers, inequitable pain management, and so on.


For this reason, it is crucial for facilities to proactively counteract such risks by implementing cultural competence training and inclusive policies that can help improve the quality of treatment and fairness for all patients.

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Xiomara Demarchi is a New York writer and frequent contributor for YourTango’s news and entertainment team. Keep up to date with them on Instagram.