How Many Of These Nursing-Related Words Do You Know?


By: Bri O.

6 Min Quiz

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Doctors may get all the credit and prestige, but when it comes to actually spending time with patients and doing the dirty work of routine patient care, nurses rule.There are more than three million nurses in the United States -- that's around four times the number of physicians. That means while you'll spend a few minutes to an hour with your doctor, most of your hands-on care will come from a nurse, especially in a hospital or in-patient facility. It is nurses who respond to basic patient needs, handle testing, take vitals and get patients checked in and out.

All that patient care comes at a cost in the form of a jam-packed schedule for the average nurse. In fact, a 2011 study by BMC Health Services found that the average nurse performs 72.3 tasks per hour, with an average task length of just 55 seconds, meaning nurses are relentlessly pressed for time.

To make the most of every second in a field where a delay can be the difference between life and death, nurses have developed their very own professional jargon, allowing them to communicate quickly and efficiently and achieve the best possible outcome for patients.

Think you can decipher the language of nursing? Take our quiz to find out!

What is HIPAA?

HIPAA stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, which is legislation that outlines security provisions intended to protect the privacy of personal medical information. It came about due to the need for privacy in an age of electronic record keeping and sending, as well as the lack of existing legislation covering the safekeeping of health information.


What term is used to describe when a large foreign body has punctured a patient's tissue(s)?

In the afternoon of Sept. 13, 1848, a tamping iron was incidentally shot out of a drilled blasting hole and propelled thru the skull of Phineas Gage. Amazingly, Gage survived the injury, which decimated an upper molar and carved through his frontal lobe. He reportedly suffered no loss of motor or executive function, though some believed Gage's personality went from personable to sociopathic after the injury.


What does it mean when a patient hemorrhages?

A hemorrhage can be internal (internal bleeding) or external. All it requires is considerable blood loss. In some cases, especially when treatment is not received in time, hemorrhages can be fatal. It's possible for humans to bleed to death within five minutes. Bystanders who notice someone bleeding out can call for help, keep the patient calm to slow down their heart rate, encourage the patient to lay down in case of fainting, elevate the injured area, and apply medium pressure to the hemorrhaging area.


What term is used to describe a patient who is mobile and capable of walking?

In some areas and healthcare systems, outpatient services are called ambulatory patient services or care. Some types of ambulatory services include ​radiology (X-Rays), blood tests, mammograms, minor surgeries, ultrasound, chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and CT scans. Pretty much anything that doesn't require hospitalization is considered outpatient or ambulatory care.


Geriatrics/Gerontology is a term used for what patient demographic?

Gerontology is concerned with the normal aging process and any diseases or problems that may occur with aging and/or in elderly populations. This is not the same as geriatrics, though very similar. Geriatrics deals with aging, but focuses specifically on medical care for the elderly and aging.


What does L.P.N. stand for?

To become a Licensed Practical Nurse, all that is required is a high school diploma or GED and the successful completion of a 12-month certificate program. LPNs earn around $20 an hour depending on the state and healthcare system.


What does a Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM) do?

CNMs are advanced practice nurses who specialize in women's health. Certified Midwives (CMs) are medical professionals in fields other than nursing who complete the required program.


What is neonatology?

Considered an elite branch of pediatrics, hospitals compete for the title of having the best neonatalogy wing. Currently, the #1 neonatal unit can be found in Washington D.C. at the Children's National Medical Center.


What is an R.N.?

Not to be confused with the text shorthand for "right now," R.N.s make around $67,000 a year. There are a few routes possible for becoming an R.N. There are 4-year and shorter degree options as well as other accredited nursing programs.


What term is used to describe abnormally low blood pressure?

We most often hear people complaining or worrying about high blood pressure, medically referred to as hypertension, but hypotension is also a potentially serious medical condition. Some of the most concerning complications of hypotension are dizziness and fainting. Hitting the ground or another object at the wrong angle as a result of fainting is a health hazard.


What does it mean when a patient is lethargic?

Lethargy is considered a medical condition that causes drowsiness and fatigue. You can feel physically lethargic, mentally lethargic, and/or both. Simply not eating, drinking, or sleeping enough can cause an otherwise healthy person to feel lethargic.


What is the technical term for the machine that helps patients breathe by moving air in and out of the lungs?

For those of us outside the nursing and medical professions, ventilators may seem scary because of the emergency and traumatic situations associated with them, especially in media representations. But, ventilators (also called respirators) help keep people with all sorts of medical diagnoses alive and are used in life support. Once a patient is ventilated, it is entirely possible for them to eventually be weaned off the aid of the machine so that they may again breathe on their own.


When a patient is afebrile, it means what?

The normal human temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit or 37.5 degrees Celsius, though this number may vary slightly from one person to the next. Patients are usually considered febrile when their temperature exceeds 99.4 degrees Fahrenheit. In adults, temperatures that exceed 102.9 are considered dangerous and a doctor should be consulted.


What's the technical term for when a patient's heart rate drops below 60 beats per minute?

Although patients are considered bradycardic when their pulse drops below 60 beats per minute, symptoms don't usually present until the rate drops below 50 beats per minute. Runners and other athletes and young adults may have naturally low resting heart rates, so a pulse at 60 or under per minute is not as concerning. A normal heart rate ranges between 60 and 100 beats per minute.


What is neuropathy?

Neuropathy is a condition that involves damage to the nervous system resulting in weakness, numbness, tingling sensations, and pain in the hands and feet. There are many types of neuropathy, including cranial, peripheral, autonomic, and focal.


What term refers to the widening of blood vessels?

Because vasodilation is literally the dilating (widening) of blood vessels, it is effective in lowering blood pressure. It happens when the smooth muscle cells within blood vessel walls relax. There are medical classes of drugs as well as herbal ingredients that act as vasodilators.


What does N.P. stand for (in regards to nursing)?

Nurse Practitioners (NPs) are Advanced Practice Registered Nurses who have more training, education, and responsibilities than Registered Nurses (RNs). Because NPs undergo advanced, rigorous clinical training, they are able to provide assessments, diagnosis, treatments and even write prescriptions depending upon state law.


What does P.A. stand for (in regards to nursing)?

Similar to NPs, Physician Assistants are authorized to write prescriptions and provide treatment for their patients. They are required to be supervised by a physician to do so.


What word is used to describe all things related to the kidneys?

The kidneys are part of the urinary tract and are responsible for filtering body fluids. If the kidneys are not working properly, fluids may build up in the body and cause life-threatening complications.


What does I.C.U. stand for?

Most commonly called the I.C.U,, other hospital departments may term it the critical care unit (CCU). Patients who are in critical status for a variety of reasons are treated in the I.C.U and monitored closely.


What term describes the way in which drugs interact with the human body?

Pharmacologists conduct research and study the way in which drugs and chemical agents interact with the human body. Whereas pharmacists apply that research in fulfilling patients' needs and dispensing medication.


What is an analgesic?

The intention of analgesic drugs is to diminish pain without inducing a loss of consciousness (sleep). Mild analgesics include drugs like NSAIDs (Aspirin). There are a variety of different types and strengths of analgesics. The body produces natural analgesics, including endorphins and enkephalins.


What does E.M.R. stand for (in regards to nursing)?

Another commonly used related abbreviation is E.H.R., which stands for electronic health records. E.M.R. and E.H.R. are similar but distinct computer applications used in healthcare settings.


What does B.S.N. stand for?

The average BSN makes nearly $70,000 per year. While you don't need a BSN to be an RN, it's highly recommended as it opens up more career opportunities.


What does it mean when a patient complains of angina?

Angina is what happens when the heart muscle isn't receiving enough oxygen-rich blood. It's associated with feeling pain, squeezing, pressure, and/or discomfort in the chest, but this can extend to other areas, including the neck, back, shoulders, and jaw. Additionally and especially in women, angina can present as feelings of indigestion/heart burn.


What's an embolism?

An embolism occurs when an embolus becomes lodged in a blood vessel. An embolus can be an air bubble or other type of gas (gas embolism), a globule of fat (fat embolism), a blood clot (thrombus), or a foreign body/material.


What is nurse slang for a phlebotomist?

Phlebotomists are medical technicians trained in the art of drawing blood for use in testing, research, transfusions, and/or blood donations. It takes about three months to earn a phlebotomy certificate.


What phrase do nurses use to describe patients they see more often than most?

While frequent flyers seems to be the most commonly used phrase to describe a certain type of patient, other commonly used phrases include repeat customers and repeat offenders. Frequent flyers are typically viewed as "problem patients."


What does it mean if a nurse describes a patient as a "trainwreck"?

When organ systems start failing and crises start piling up, a patient's problems can start to feel like a trainwreck, or in other words, a complete mess. Figuring out a treatment plan for trainwreck patients can be confusing and feel futile.


Intravenous is used to describe what?

Most commonly known as I.V., intravenous methods of medical intervention can be administered through syringe, needle, or catheter. This is different from interventions and injections that take place just below the skin (subcutaneous) and above the layer of muscle.


What does D.O.A. stand for?

It can also stand for Dead On Assessment. Additionally, there's a Canadian punk rock band called D.O.A. as well as a 1946 movie.


What does FMPS mean in nurse slang?

In nurse slang, Fluff My Pillow Syndrome refers to patients who expect medical staff to cater to their every need and want, complain about frivolous things, and act like "divas." This may be abbreviated in the patient's chart to inform other staff about what they're in for.


Who are the slashers/cutters?

These code words are most commonly employed when nurses and other medical staff want to discretely converse about a doctor/surgeon. It's also a stereotype that portrays surgeons as more interested in cutting and professional experience than they are in keeping the patient alive.


What's a code brown in nurse lingo?

Code browns can deal with anything from typical incontinence to major "accidents" and messes. Every nurse has a hilariously disgusting code brown story to share. From diapers being accidentally thrown at walls, to patients who simply couldn't make it to the restroom, nurses have seen it all.


What are B-52s?

B-52 cocktails are administered to agitated and/or violent patients in an effort to calm them down. Ativan and haldol are typically given together in the same syringe, with the benadryl administered separately as it's not compatible with most other drugs.


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