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+/-: Uncertain.

+: Present.

++: present significantly.

+++: present in excess.

=: equivalent to.

0: not present OR no abnormality.

1:1: (one to one) specifies one member of staff. Can be specified further to "eye-sight" - must always be in eye sight; "arms-reach" - must always be within arms reach.

1:15: patient must be checked every 15 minutes.

2:1: (two to one) specifies one member of staff. Can be specified further to "eye-sight" - must always be in eye sight; "arms-reach" - must always be within arms reach.

5+2: term used in mental health referring to 5 mg haloperidol and 2 mg lorazepam.

10+2: term used in mental health referring to 10 mg haloperidol and 4 mg lorazepam.


A.d: As Directed.

AAA: Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (Swelling of the main artery in the abdomen).

ABG: (Arterial Blood Gas) test to see how much oxygen there is in the blood - percentage ‘saturation’.

ABX: Antibiotics.

AHP: (Allied Health Professional) for example, occupational therapists, physiotherapists.

AI/R: (Aortic Incompetence/Regurgitation) leaking heart valve.

AMB: Ambulation.

AoR: Aortic valve Replacement.

AP: Assistant Practitioner.

AS: (Abdominal System OR Aortic Stenosis) narrowed heart valve.

AXR: Abdominal X-Ray.

AWOL: Absent Without Official Leave.

Anaesthesia: having sensation - including pain - temporarily taken away.

Analgesia: the correct term for 'pain killer'.

Antecubital Fossa: a cavity in the elbow joint which is a popular area for blood taking and cannulation.

Aphasia: a loss or reduction of language following brain damage, typically as a result of a stroke.

Asystole: heart beat is absent, indicating cardiac arrest.

Atelectasis: the failure of part of the lung to expand.

Atrial Fibrulation: a condition where the heart beats irregularly.

Audiology: a study of disorders of hearing.

Auriscope: instrument used to examine the ear.


Bacteraemia: the presence of the bacteria in the blood.

bd/bid: twice a day.

Benchmark: an externally-agreed comparator to compare performance between similar organisations or systems.

BM: an abbreviation of ‘blood monitoring’. Also called ‘blood glucose monitoring’; it is the process of checking a patient's blood sugar levels.

BMI: (Body Mass Index) kg/m2 - measure of body size relating to height and weight.

BNF: (British National Formulary) a book with every drug available listed in it.

BNO: Bowels Not Opened.

BOR: Bowels Open Regularly.

BP: Blood Pressure.

BPAD: Bi-Polar Affective Disorder.

BPd: Diastolic Blood Pressure - the lower blood pressure.

BPs: Systolic Blood Pressure - the higher blood pressure.

Bradycardia: slow heart rate; usually considered to be under 60 bpm (beats per minute) in adults.


CA or Ca: Carcinoma, Cancer.

CABG/S or CAG/S: (Coronary Artery Bypass Graft/Surgery) heart surgery to bypass blocked blood supply.

CAMHS: Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service.

CBT: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

CD: controlled drug.

CFS: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome; also called ME or myalgic encephalomyelitis.

CMHT: Community Mental Health Team.

CNS: Central Nervous System.

COAD: (Chronic Obstructive Airways Disease) chronic lung disease.

COPD: (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) chronic lung disease.

CPA: Care Pathway Approach or Care Programme Approach.

CPAP: (Continuous Positive Airways Pressure) a technique for relieving breathing problems.

CPN: Community Psychiatric Nurse.

CQUIN: (Commissioning for Quality and Innovation) payment linking a proportion of healthcare providers’ income to the achievement of local quality improvement goals.

CSF: cerebrospinal fluid.

CSU: catheter specimen of urine.

CT or CAT: (Computerised Axial Tomography) body scan.

CTO: Community Treatment Order.

CVA: (Cerebrovascular Accident) a stroke.

CVS: (Cardiovascular System) the heart and blood vessels.

CX: (Cervical Spine or Cervix) neck of the womb.

CXR: Chest X-ray.

Cannula: a hollow tube inserted into the body for fluids or liquid medication.

Cannulation: the process of inserting a cannula. Can be carried out by many staff, including HCA’s, nurses and doctors.

Cataract: opacity in the lens of the eye leading to blurred vision.

Catheterisation: introduction of a catheter (narrow tube) into a hollow organ of the body, for example a urinary catheter passed into the bladder.

Coloctomy: part of the colon is brought through the abdominal wall and faecal matter drains into a colostomy bag.

Colonisation: the presence of bacteria on a body surface.

Crepitus: the name given to a grating or crackling feeling or sound under the skin, around the lungs or in joints.


D and V: Diarrhoea and Vomiting.

D/H: Drug History.

DNA: Did Not Attend.

DNAR: Do not attempt resuscitation.

DU: Duodenal Ulcer.

Dx: Discharge.

DVT: (Deep Vein Thrombosis) blood clot – usually in leg.

Dashboard: a visualisation of the relevant indicators of care.

Defibrillation: a concentrated electric shock to return the heart to a normal rhythm. Every ward will have a defibrillator machine as part of their ‘crash trolly’ or ‘resuscitation trolley’; knowing it’s location should be part of a student's induction.

Depot: injection given IM of antipsychotic medication, which is stored in the muscle and released slowly over time.

Diastolic pressure: period during the cardiac cycle when the ventricles of the heart are relaxed and refilling with blood. Pressure in the arteries is low. Lower reading of blood pressure.

Doppler Ultrasound: a technique using ultrasound waves to study the flow in blood vessels.

Dysphagia: swallowing difficulty.

Dysphasia: impairment of speech and verbal comprehension, especially when associated with brain injury.

Dyspraxia: a motor learning difficulty that can affect planning of movements and coordination.


EAM: (External Auditory Meatus) ear canal opening.

EC: Enteric Coated.

ECG: (Electrocardiograph) electrical heart trace.

ECT: (Electroconvulsive therapy) treatment in which a convulsion is produced by passing an electric current through the brain.

EEG: (Electroencephalogram) test to record brain impulses.

EMU: Early Morning specimen of Urine.

ENT: Ear, Nose and Throat.

EPSEs: Extra-Pyramidal Side Effects.

ERCP: (Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography) technique used to obtain a biopsy; also a surgical method of relieving biliary obstruction.

ESR: (Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate) blood test for inflammation.

Electrocardiogram: a recording of the electrical activity in the heart. A useful diagnostic tool to detect problems associated with the heart.

Endoscope: instrument for examining the interior of a bodily canal or hollow organ.

Endoscopy: visual examination of the interior of a hollow body organ by use of an endoscope.

Enteral: relating to intestinal tract.

Epistaxis: bleeding from the nose.

Excoriation: damage to the surface of the skin; for example, as a result of incontinence.

Exudate: fluid produced in a wound as part of the inflammatory process. It contains protein and white blood cells.


F/H: Family History.

FBC: Full Blood Count.

FBG: Fasting Blood Glucose.

FROM: Full Range of Movement.

FY1: First-year doctor.

Febrile: to be affected with fever; the opposite being afebrile.

Fibrillation: rapid beating of the muscles in the heart. Can cause errors when measuring the patient's pulse using automatic machines.

Fistula: abnormal communication between two organs or an organ and the surface of the body. Rectovaginal fistula, for example, is a communication between the rectum and vagina.

Forceps: instruments with a pincer designed to hold objects in place or to pull. There are various types designed to meet different needs.

Foundation Trust: NHS trust that has gained a degree of independence from the Department of Health and local health authority.


GCS: (Glasgow Coma Scale) a measurement system used to determine a patient's level of consciousness. The scale ranges from 3 (deep unconsciousness) to 15 (completely alert).

GI: Gastrointestinal.

GORD: (Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease) back-flow of stomach acid into the gullet.

GU: Genito-urinary OR Gastric ulcer.

Gastroenteritis: inflammation of the stomach and intestine. Causes fluid loss which can often be severe. Patients with gastroenteritis need their fluid input and output monitoring.

General obs: patient is checked at regular intervals as per ward policy and same as all other patients; generally hourly on acute ward.

Genetics: the science of inheritance which aims to explain difference and similarities between organisms. A required element of all student nurses' education.


Hb: (Haemoglobin) a measure of blood count.

HbA1c: laboratory test to show average blood glucose levels over 3 months.

HCAI: (Healthcare-associated infection) infection resulting from healthcare provision in any setting.

HI: Head Injury.

HNPU: Has Not Passed Urine.

HR: Heart Rate.

HS: Heart Sounds.

HT: Height.

Hx: History (of complaint).

Haematoma: solid swelling of clotted blood, usually in liquid form within the tissue.

Haematuria: presence of blood in urine.

Haemorrhage: bleeding. Can be internal or external.

Hartmann’s Solution: an isotonic solution used to replace body fluid and mineral salts. Hartmann’s Solution can be abbreviated as ‘Hartmann’s’ and ‘CSL’.

Hernia: organ or tissue protrudes out of the body cavity. For example, inguinal hernia, bowel bulges through a weak part of the abdominal wall.

Homeostasis: the regulation of the bodes internal environment to maintain a stable state. There are number of key variables that have to be maintained in order stay alive such as blood pH value and temperature.

Hospital Acquired Infection: an infection that has been contracted while in the care setting. The main defence against this type of infection is good hand hygiene.

Hyper: excessive or abnormal increase (in anatomy means 'above').

Hypercapnia: high levels of carbon dioxide in the blood.

Hyperglycaemia: high blood sugar levels.

Hypo: deficiency or small in size (in anatomy means 'below').

Hypoglycaemia: low blood sugar.

Hypothermia: abnormal fall in body temperature.

Hypoxia: low levels of oxygen in the blood.


IBD: Irritable Bowel Disease.

IBS: Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

ID: Intradermal.

IDDM: (Insulin Dependant Diabetes Mellitus) type-1 diabetes.

IM: (Intra-muscular) injection.

IMV: (Intermittent Mechanical Ventilation) ventilation in which the patient is allowed to breathe independently except during prescribed intervals.

IV: Intravenous.

Ix: Investigations.

Immunity: the body's ability to resist infection.

Infection: the invasion of the body by harmful organisms.

Intermittent self-catheterisation: patient periodically passes a catheter into the bladder to drain urine. Used to manage problems such as neurogenic bladder.

Irrigation: the washing out of a wound or hollow with water. Normally the water is sterile.

Intubation: insertion of a tube into the body for diagnostic or treatment purposes. For example, an endotracheal tube inserted into the airway for anaesthesia.

Intussusception: telescoping of one part of the bowel into another. Most common in children under 4 years.

Ischaemia: an inadequate blood supply to an organ or part of the body.


JVP: (Jugular Venous Pressure) neck vein - back pressure from the heart.

Jaundice: a yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes. A common cause is due to liver disease.

Joint: point at which two or more bones are connected.

Jugular Veins: bring deoxygenated blood from the head.

Jumpers knee: (patellar tendinitis) inflammation of patellar tendons that occur in athletes and dancers. Occurs as a result of repeated sudden contracture of the quadriceps muscles at take-off.


K: serum potassium.

KUB: (Kidneys, Ureter, Bladder) X-ray or ultrasound of renal track.

Ketones: chemicals that appear in the blood and urine when fats are broken down for energy.

Ketosis: a state of elevated levels of ketones in the body.

Kyphosis: excessive outward curvature of the spine causing hunching of the back - for example, as a result of osteoporosis.


LD: Learning Disability.

LFT: (Liver Function Test) blood tests for liver function.

LIF: (Left Iliac Fossa) left groin.

LKKS: (Liver, Kidney, Kidney, Spleen).

LN: Lymph Node.

LOC: Loss of Consciousness.

LP: (Lumbar puncture) needle inserted into the spine for diagnostic purposes.

LS: Lymph System.

LUQ: (Left Upper Quadrant) left upper part of abdomen.

Laceration: a tearing flesh which produces a wound with irregular edges.

Laparoscopy: commonly called keyhole surgery, it is a surgical technique which is performed using thin instruments (normally between 0.5 and 1.5 cm wide) inserted in incisions in the abdomen. A monitor is then used to guide the surgeon.

Laryngoscope: a device with a handle and a curved blade used to inspect larynx. Also used for the insertion of an endotrachael tube. This device is commonly found on resuscitation trolleys.

Leave: time a patient can spend away from the ward, also referred to as "Section 17 leave" as is under section 17 of mental health act. Can be escorted or unescorted as specified by doctor and time restricted.

Lymph: a fluid containing white blood cells, which bathes the tissues and drains through the lymphatic system into the bloodstream.


M and C (S): Microscopy and Culture Sensitivity of Bacteria (of a sample e.g. urine).

MAU: Medical Assessment Unit.

MCA: Mental Capacity Act.

MCV: (Mean Corpuscular Volume) size of red blood cells.

MDT: Multi-disciplinary team.

ME: Myalgic Encephalomyelitis - also called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

METS: Metastases (cancer spread).

MEWS: Modified Early Warning System (physiological scoring system that identifies high risk patients. The score is calculated based on data from patient observations).

MHA Mental Health Act.

MI: (Myocardial Infarction OR Mitral Incompetence) - heart attack OR leaking heart valve.

MMSE: (Mini mental state examination) screening tool used to assess for cognitive impairment.

MR: Modified Release.

MRI: (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) body/brain scan.

MS: (Multiple Sclerosis OR Mitral Stenosis) narrowed heart valve.

MSE: Mental State Examination.

MSS: Musculoskeletal System.

MSU: (Mid-Stream Urine) sample.

MUST: (Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool) a five-step screening tool to identify adults who are malnourished, at risk of malnutrition, or obese.

Macerator: a device used to reduce the size and mass of paper-based objects (sick bowls, commode liners, urine bottles etc) for them to be flushed into the sewage system. Commonly found in the dirty utility room (sluice) of a ward.

Mane: in the morning (Latin).

Melena: black faeces that is often associated with gastrointestinal haemorrhage.

Metastasis: the spread of a disease from one organ to another non-adjacent organ. Most commonly associated with the spread of cancer.

Mitte or Mite: dispense this number of tablets (Latin).


N and V: Nausea and Vomiting.

NA: Nursing Assistant (aka. support worker).

NAD: Nothing Abnormal Discovered.

NBI: No Bone Injury.

NBM: (Nil by Mouth) a state in which a patent can be placed for a number of reasons. Some common reasons could be because of swallowing difficulties or because of pre-operation preparation.

NFA: No fixed abode.

NFR: Not For Resuscitation.

NG: Nasogastric.

NHS: the National Health Service, the public health care system in England in which almost all of the services are “free at the point of use”.

NICE: National Institute of Clinical Excellence.

NIDDM: Non-insulin-dependent diabetes (type 2 diabetes).

NIV: Non-invasive ventilation.

Nerve block: anaesthesia of part of the body by blocking the passage of pain impulses in the sensory nerve supply.

Nervous system: a network used for the transmission of signals between different parts of the body.

Nocte: Night (Latin).

Nursing metrics: outcomes used to measure the quality of nursing care.


OA: Osteoarthritis.

Obs: (observations of vital signs) for example, BP, pulse, temperature.

o.d.: used to indicate treatment or drugs give once daily.

OD: Over-dose.

O/E or o.e.: On Examination.

OGD: (Oesophago-gastro-duodenoscopy) telescope examination of stomach and gullet.

OPA/OPD: Outpatient appointment/Outpatient department.

o.m.: In the Morning.

o.n.: At Night.

OPA/OPD: Out-patient appointment/Out-patient department.

otc: (Over the Counter) bought medication.

Oedema: excessive accumulation of fluid in the bodies tissues. Can give the visual appearance of swelling.

Orthopaedics: area of nursing concerned with the correction of damage caused to the bones or joints.

Oximeter: an instrument for detecting the amount of oxyhemoglobin in the blood. Used as part of vital sign observations. It's placement requires consideration.


P: Pulse.

PALS: (Patient Advocacy Liaison Service) a service within the hospital or trust that deals with complaints or concerns.

PCB: (Post Coital Bleeding) vaginal bleeding after intercourse.

PD: Personality Disorder.

PE: (Pulmonary Embolism) blood clot on the lung.

PEARL: (Pupils equal and reacting to light) on examination of nervous system/eyes.

PEG: (Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy) a surgical procedure in which a small opening is made in the stomach to allow food and fluid to be administered.

PF(R): Peak Flow (Rate) breathing test – speed of expiration.

PFI: (Private Finance Initiative) a way of creating public-private partnerships to funding public infrastructure projects with private capital.

PID: Pelvic Inflammatory Disease.

PM: Post-mortem examination.

PMH or PHx Previous medical history.

PND: (Paroxysmal Nocturnal Dyspnoea) breathless at night.

PO: (Per Orim) oral administration.

POM: Prescription-only medication.

POP: Plaster of Paris.

PP: (Peripheral pulse) pulses in the feet, ankles etc.

PR: (Per Rectum) rectal examination.

PREM: Patient-reported Experience Measure.

PRN: (pro re nata) used on treatment charts to describe treatment given as required (Latin).

PROM: Patient-reported Outcome Measure.

PTCA: (Percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty) opening up the main arteries of the heart using a balloon.

PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

PU: Passed urine.

PV: Per Vagina (vaginal examination).

PVD: Peripheral Vascular Disease (furring up of the blood vessels of the limbs).

Pulse: the feeling of blood being pumped through arteries. Usually felt in the wrist and, during vital sign observations, should be measured over the course of 1 minute.

Px: Prescription.

Purulent: containing pus.

Pyrexia: rise in body temperature above normal.


Q-Wave: the toward deflection on an ECG.

QDS: four times a day (Latin).

QIPP: (Quality, Innovation, Productivity and Prevention) initiative to designed to support clinical. teams and NHS organisations to improve the quality of care while making efficiency savings that can be reinvested into the NHS.

Quadriceps: large muscle at the front on the thigh.

Quinine: a drug to prevent and treat Malaria. Largely replaced with other medication. Famously included as an ingredient in Indian Tonic Water.


R/L: Right/Left.

RA: Rheumatoid Arthritis.

RDS: (Respiratory Distress Syndrome) difficulty in breathing.

RFT: Renal Function tests OR Respiratory Function tests.

RGN: Registered General Nurse.

RMN or RMHN: Registered Mental Nurse or Registered Mental Health Nurse; these are the same thing.

RR: (Respiration Rate) rate of breathing - breaths per minute.

RS: Respiratory System.

RSI: Repetitive Strain Injury.

RTA: Road Traffic Accident.

Rx: prescription or treatment.

Radiation: energy in the form of waves or particles. In a hospital setting, exposure to radiation commonly comes from X-Rays. Strict precessions are adhered to in order to protect staff and patients.

Rapid tranq: drugs used to rapidly tranquillise a patient, or the act of rapidly tranquillising a patient.

Recovery position: first aid position to prevent an unconscious person choking. Position in which to place an unconscious, breathing casualty while waiting for medical help. The body is placed on its side with the upper leg bent at a right angle and the lower leg straight. The lower arm is bent at a right angle; the upper is bent with the palm of the hand placed against the lower cheek to support the head, which is tilted back to keep the airway open. Not to be used for casualties with suspected spinal injuries.

Respiration Rate: the amount of breaths someone takes over a period of time. During vital sign observations the rate is measured over 1 minute. Normal respiration rates vary depending on a person's age.


Sats: amount of oxygen in blood, measured by percentage of oxygen haemoglobin is saturated with.

SBG: (Serum Blood Glucose) blood Sugar level.

SC: subcutaneous.

SE: side effect.

SIMV: (Synchronised Intermittent Mechanical Ventilation) ventilation in which assisted breaths are delivered at a set frequency with spontaneous breaths permitted in between.

SkXR: Skull X-ray.

SL: sub-lingual.

SOB: Short of breath.

SOL: (Space Occupying Lesion) tumour, usually of head.

SR: (Sinus Rhythm) normal heartbeat.

SR: sustained release/slow release.

SSRI: (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor) type of anti-depressant.

Stat: immediately.

STD: Sexually Transmitted Disease.

STI: Sexually Transmitted Infection.

Sx: Symptoms.

Saline: (normal saline) a solution that contains 0.9% sodium chloride. Commonly used to dilute medication and for injections.

Serous Fluid: a term used to describe a number fluids in the body. Usually pale yellow in colour.

Specialling: increased observations on a patient so at least one member of staff is with them at all times.

Sterile: free from living organisms. Usually relates to instruments which comes into contact with patients.

Stoma: Greek word for mouth or opening.

Sub-cut: sub-cutaneous; injection under the skin.

Systolic pressure: the period during the cardiac cycle when the heart contracts. The pressure of blood against the walls of the arteries is highest during systole. This is the high number in a blood pressure reading. Normal value is 120mm.


TAPS: Trainee Assistant Practitioner.

TATT: Tired all the time.

TB: Tuberculosis.

tds OR tid: three times a day (Latin).

TFT: Thyroid Function Test.

THR: Total Hip Replacement.

TIA: (Transient Ischaemic Attack) small, short-lived stroke.

TKR: Total Knee Replacement.

TLC: Tender Loving Care (Treat only with symptom relief and nursing care).

TM OR Tm: (Tympanic Membrane) ear drum.

TPN: Total Parenteral Nutrition.

TPR: Temperature, Pulse, Respiration.

TTA/O: tablets to take away/out. Prescription of medication to be taken home on discharge, aka a discharge script.

TU(R)P: Transurethral (resection) of Prostate - operation on the prostate gland.

Tx: Treatment.

Tachy: fast; rapid.

Tachycardia: increase in pulse above the normal rate.

Tachypnoea: rapid breathing.

Topical: applied to surface of the body.

Trendelenberg position: a position where a person is laid flat on the back with the feet higher than the head. Used in abdominal and gynaecological surgery.

Thyroid Gland: a hormone secreting gland in the neck.

Tourniquet: a device used to stop the flow of blood in arteries and veins. Typically used in the blood taking and cannulation process.


U and Es: (Urea and Electrolytes) blood test for kidney function.

UC: Ulcerative Colitis.

UDS: Urine Drug Screen.

USS: Ultrasound Scan.

UTI: Urinary Tract Infection.

Ultrasonography: the use of ultrasound to produce images of objects and structures in the body.

Urethra: a duct in which urine leaves the body from the bladder.

Urine: waste fluid secreted by the body. Testing of urine is frequently conducted on patients for various reasons and can be carried out by students.


VF: (Ventricular Fibrillation) rapid uncoordinated heartbeat.

VT: (Ventricular Tachycardia) fast heartbeat.

Vein: blood vessels that carry blood towards the heart.

Vessel: a duct that carries blood or other fluid.

Vomit: the contents of the stomach ejected during vomiting.


Wbc: White Blood Cell count.

WHO: (World Health Organisation) a specialised agency of the UN (United Nations) which devises health related policies. Publishes the International Classification of Diseases.

Wt: weight.

Withdrawal symptom: unpleasant and sometimes life threatening response when drugs such as tranquilizers, opioids and alcohol are withdrawn after prolonged, regular use.

Wound: a break in the structure of an organism or tissue which can occur by a number of causes.

Wrist: joint between the hand and forearm.


X chromosome: sex chromosome present in both males and females.

X-Ray Department: hospital department where X-Ray investigations are carried out. In some cases a portable X-Ray machine can be taken to wards.


Y chromosome: sex chromosome present in men but not women.


Zygote: a fertilized ovum.

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