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Rev Cubana Educ Med Super 2001;15(1):39-55

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Instituto Superior de Ciencias Médicas de La Habana
Facultad de Ciencias Médicas "Julio Trigo López"

The use of shortening in english for specific purposes. A practical review for nurses

Lic. Vivian Amparo Martínez Sánchez1 y Lic. Beatriz Goenaga Conde2

Summary

Shortening as a word building process has become very productive in present day English. Abbreviations in nursing have also found a way for professional and quick communication. The main goals of this article, based on actual teaching-learning problems, is to provide some practical activities to give the learners opportunities to get acquainted with and practice abbreviations in an effective and communicative way, and to provide a glossary of the most frequently used abbreviations by nurses.

Subject headings: ABBREVIATIONS; COMMUNICATION; NURSES´ INS-TRUCTIONS [PUBLICATION TYPE]

Shortening is considered a very productive word-building process. It is the dropping of the latter part of a word so as to produce a new and shorter word of the same meaning. The strain of modern life is obviously one of the reasons for this development. For example, almost all written material in hospital is written to be read at a glance because consultants read them before they do their rounds, and new nurses to acquaint with their patients. Similarly, the daily ward repots are read by the offgoing nurse in charge to the oncoming staff.1

In English, shortenings may be present in written and spoken forms. Each of them has its own pattern, but as there is a constant exchange between both, it is sometimes difficult to tell whether a given shortening was originated in one or in the other.

An abbreviation is a shortened form of a word or phrase used for brevity especially in writing in place of the whole. Two possible types of correlation should be noted between the written and spoken forms:

1. If the abbreviation can be read as an ordinary English word, it will be read as one. For example,
UFO - Unidentified Flying Object
Polyps - Polymorphonuclear leuckocytes
MSU - Mid Stream Urine

2. The other group consists of initial abbreviations with alphabetic reading retained. For example,
P.R - pupil reaction
B.P.- blood pressure
P- pulse

The term abbreviation may also be used for a shortened form of a written word or phrase used in a text in place of the whole for brevity. For example,
Cas.- casualty
Elix.- elixir
Caps.- capsule

Not much has been written about abbreviations in English for Foreign Language Teaching and less in English for Specific Purpose (ESP), even though in the practice of nursing, this word-building process has found a field of development. High frequency use of abbreviations like: ADL- Activities of Daily Living
a.c.- (Latin: ante cibum) before meals
b.i.d.- (Latin: bis in die) twice a day
h.s.- (Latin: hora somni) at bed time
n.r.- (Latin: non repitatur) do not repeat
p.c.- (Latin: post cibum) after meals
p.r.n.- (Latin: pro re nata) as needed
q. ____ h. _(Latin: quaque _____ hora) every ____ hours
q.o.d. every other day
t.i.d.- (Latin: ter in die) three times a day
for instance, are not present in any of the syllabus used at present in ESP courses in English subject for nursing learners.2-4

Daily teaching has demonstrated that there is a handicap with the mastery of abbreviations. There is a lack of knowledge, which constitutes a language barrier. One of the problems for learners is that there is no correspondence between the English and the Spanish abbreviations as to initials. Therefore, the learner cannot make a transfer from their mother tongue to the target language. Another problem is that teachers of English tend to concentrate their teaching on oral practice, whereas, writing has turned to be a neglected skill. Therefore, there is no teaching, and there is no practical activity to use abbreviations. Moreover, abbreviations are not an objective in the ESP syllabuses in Schools of Medical Sciences in Cuba, even though there are around fifty in the ESP textbooks used at present.2-4 Consequently, specialists need to study by themselves the majority of abbreviations, in order to be able to use them when working overseas in English speaking communities, because there is no enough bibliography for teachers of ESP to deepen in their use in the field of nursing.

This article sets out to provide practical activities in the teaching-learning process of abbreviations for nursing learners. These practical activities are task focused. They can first be done as a classroom activity and putting them into practice in training-on-the-job activities such as ward rounds, grand rounds, and shift-handover.5

Exercises

Exercise 1

Puzzle


a. Find ten abbreviations
A
B
D
M
H
L
O
P
N
X
G
C
T
N
D
I
B
J
I
C
E
D
A
N
P
K
O
J
V
D
T
W
Z
U
E
R
N
D
X
D
D
B
F
L
D
X
Z
S
O
X
B
J
C
L
A
Q
A
H
W
F
F
C
T
J

b. What to they stand for?

Key Answer

Abd - abdomen DAT - diet as tolerated
GI - gastro-intestinal ER - emergency room
H - hour DOA - dead on arrival
BP - blood pressure dsg - dressing
cc - cubic centimeter Dx - diagnosis
Hd - fluid F - Fahrenheit
JUV - jugular vein distention KUB - kidney, ureter, and bladder

Exercise 2

Puzzle


a. Find the abbreviation, which stands for:

morning care patient three times a day
head injuries casualty
Electrocardiogram every other day
bed bath nothing by mouth total nursing care
A
M
P
T
E
A
H
I
I
L
D
Z
C
B
O
W
B
B
E
W
K
T
N
C
G
M
F
F
A
C
T
B
C
A
S
O
T
E
Z
N
D
T
G
P
I
D
G
P
K
X
H
M
D
Z
T
O
Q
O
D
T
M
X
O
A

 

Exercise 3

Choose a or b according to the information given:

1. The doctor said that the foetos was in breech presentation
a. bp b. BP
2. Nurses make emphasis on a careful
a. a.m. care b. AMC
3. The nurse replied that the patient had to be sent to the
a. DR. b. dr.

Exercise 4

Transcribe:
a. Some nursing notes are very brief, like the following example. Can you transcribe them?
Mr. J. Smith N/P # skull R.T.A. admitted via cas. 10: 30 p.m. Unconscious since admission. Head of bed raised. P, BP, PR reordered 1/2 hourly.
b. Some notes are not so brief. Fill in the gaps in these notes, not using abbreviations.
Mr. J. Smith´s diagnosis: fractured skull. Involved in a _________________
The patient was admitted via ________________ at ___________
And has been unconscious since admission. The head of his bed has been raised. His _______________, _______________ and ______________ have ben recorded _________________ since admission.

Key answer

N/P - new patient R.T.A. - road traffic accident
Pt - patient P.R. - pupil reaction
Cas - casualty # - fractured

Exercise 5

a. Abbreviate the underlined terms (teacher writes on board):

  1. He was brought in with head injuries.
  2. The doctor ordered an electrocardiogram.
  3. She was given a stomach washout.
  4. He was given a bed bath.
  5. She will need total nursing care.
  6. We have to get a mid-stream urine sample from John Smith this morning.

Key answer

HI, EKG or ECG, SW, BB, TNC, MSU.

Exercise 6

a. In the following sentences some of the words are abbreviated. Can you guess what they mean?

  1. The nurse took the patient´s TPR every four hours.
  2. The doctor did a lumbar puncture and the CSF was clear.
  3. He was examined PR.
  4. The patient could not PU and had to be catheterized.
  5. Don´t give Mrs. Azukeli a drink _ she´s NPO.
  6. To be D/W doctor Schmidt

Key answer

TPR    temperature, pulse and respiration
CSF   cerebral spinal fluid
PR      pupil reaction
PU      passed urine
NPO   nothing by mouth
D/W   discussed with

Exercise 7

a. Read the following nursing notes and discuss with a partner what they mean. Then write a full version, using complete sentences and no abbreviations.
T.N.C. N.P.U. BP raised. PR unequal 8 p.m. Doctor X informed. Seen by Doctor X 8:30 p.m.. For burr-holes 10 p.m.

Key answer

Total nursing care has been given. The patient has not passed urine since admission. At 8 p.m. his blood pressure was raised and the pupil reaction to light was unequal. Doctor X was informed. The patient was seen by Doctor X at 8.30 p.m. and is to have a burr-hole operation on his skull at 10:00 p.m.

Exersice 8

a. You are the off-going shift nurse. You are to present written shift handover report (use abbreviations when needed). You have only got five minutes to report on three cases.
b. Present the shift handover report to the other nurse who is coming on.

Glossary

Commonly used abbreviations and meanings in nursing.

A

+,            & And
a.             Before
a.c.          before meals
A.M.       Morning
aa            of each
Abd.       Abdomen
abort.      Abortion
accomd.  Accommodation
ACTH     adrenocorticotropic hormone
ad lib.      as desired
ad.          up to
ADH.     Antidiuretic hormone
ADL.      activities of daily living
alt. dieb.  alternate days
Amb        ambulatory
Approx.   approximately/about
ASA        aspirin
Ax.          axillary (i.e., axillary temp.)

B

b.i.d        two times a day or twice a day
baso.       basophile
BCG       (vaccine) basille Calmetter Guerin
bili.          bilirrubin
bl. cult.    blood culture
BM         bowel movement
BMR       basal metabolic rate
BP           blood pressure
br.sound  breath sounds
BRP        bathroom privileges
BS           blood sugar
BSP         bronsulphalein
BUN        blood urea nitrogen

C

C             centrigade (37 °)
c.             with
C/o¹         complained of
C+S         culture and sensitive
ca             cancer
CA.          carcinoma or cancer
cat.           catheter
CBC         complete blood count
cc cubic     centimeter (or cm´)
CC.           chief complaint
ceph. floc.  cephalin flocculation test
cl.              chloride
cldy.          cloudy
CNS         Central Nervous System
CNS         Central Nervous System
CO2         Carbon dioxide
cont.         continued
CPC         Clinicopathological conference
CSF         Cerebro spinal fluid
CVA        cerebrovascular accident
CVP         central venous pressure
chol.         cholesterol
chol. est.   cholesterol esters

D

D&C       dilation & curettage
D/W        discussed with
D+C        dilation and curettage
DAT        diet as tolerated
DC          discontinue (i.e., "DC Lasix.")
DC´d       discontinued (i.e., "Lasix DC´d.")
decr.        diminished or decreased
Derm       Dermatology
diag.        diagnosis
dil.           dilute
disch.       discharge
DL           danger list
DOA       dead on arrival
DPT        diphtheria toxoid, pertussis vaccine, tetanus toxoid
dsg.         dressing
Dx.          diagnosis

E

EBL         estimated blood loss
ECG        electrocardiogram (EKG may be preferred for legibility)
ECT         electroconvulsive
ECHO     virus enterocyptopathogenic human orphan viruses
EDC        estimated date of confinement
EEG         electroencephalogram
elix.          elixir
ENT         ears, nose & throat or ear, nose & throat
EOM        extraocular movement
epith.         epithelium or epithelial
ER (ED)    emergency room (departament)
EST           electroshock therapy
expir.         expiration or expiratory
ext.            extract

F

#               fracture
F.              Fahrenheit (98.6 F)
fam.doc.    family doctor (no longer accepted)
                 family phys.
                 family physician
                 referring doctor
FBS          fasting blood sugar
Fe             iron

FETAL POSITION PRESENTATION

LFA (RFA)    left frontoanterior (right)
LFP (RFP)     left frontoposterior (right)
LFT (RFT)     left frontotransverse (right)
LMA (RMA)  left mentoanterior (right)
LMP (RMP)   left mentoposterior (right)
LMT (RMT)   left metrotransverse (right)
LOA               left occiput anterior
LOP               left occiput posterior
LOT               left occiput transverse
LSA (RSA)    left sacrum anterior (right)
LSP (RSP)     left sacrum posterior (right)
LST (RST)     left sacrum transverse (right)
ROA              right occiput anterior
ROP               right occiput posterior
ROT               right occiput transverse
FH                 family history
Fld                 fluid
for. body        foreign body
fract.              fracture
FSH               follicle stimulating hormone

G

gal.                 gallon
GI                  gastrointestinal
gm or g           gram (measurement)
Gml                grams per hundred milliliters of serum or blood as
                      specified
gold.sol.         colloidal gold curve
GPR               glomerular filtration rate
gr.                  grain (measurement used in medicine)
Grav.I, Grav.  primigravide, secundigravida
II                    indicating a woman of so many pregnancies.
Gtt                 drop (measurement used in medicine)
GU                 genitourinary
Gyn.               gynecology

H

H                    hour
H&H               hemoglobin & hematocrit
H.I.                 head injuries
h.s.                  hour of sleep, bed time
H.S.                at bed time
H/O                history of
HAA               hepatitis associated antigen
Hct.                 hematocrit
Hgb                 hemoglobin
Hi. cal              high calory
Hint.                Hinton
Hi                    vit high vitamin
HOB               head of bead
hpf.                  per high powered field (used only in describing urine sediments)
ht                     height

I

I131                radioactive iodine
I&D                incision and drainage (included because of general use)
I&Q                intake and output (I&O)
IM                   intramuscular
incr.                 increased or increasing
inspr.               Inspiration or inspiratory
IPPB               intermittent positive pressure breathing
IQ                   intelligence quotient
Irrig.                irrigation
IUD                 intrauterine device
IV                    intravenous
IVP                  intravenous pyelogram

J

JVD                  jugular vein distention

K

K                       potassium
Kg                     kilogram
KJ                     knee jerk
KUB                 kidney, ureter, and bladder

L

L or lt.                left (sometimes it is light,when describing colors)
I & W                living and well
Lab.                   laboratory
lap.                     laparotomy
lat.                      lateral
lb.                       pound
LBBB                 left bundle branch block
LDH                   lactic acid dehydragenase
liq.                      Liquid
L                        left
LMP                  last menstrual period
lot.                      lotion
LP                      lumbar puncture
LSD                   lysergic diethylamide
LUL                   left upper lobe (lung)
LUQ                  left upper quadrant
LUQ                  left upper quadrant (abdomen)
lymphs                lymphocytes
LLL                   left lower lobe (lung)
LLQ                  left lower quadrant
LLQ                  left lower quadrant (abdomen)

M

m.                      minun
M1                    mitral first
MCH                 mean corpuscular hemoglobin
MCHC              mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration
MCV                 mean corpuscular volume
Mg.                   magnesium
mg. %               milligrams per hundred milliliters of serum blood
Meq (Meq/1)    milliequivalents (per liter)
M. et N.            morning and night
Mn.                   manganese
med.                  medicine
mixt.                  mixture
mg.                    milligram
mid.                   middle
min.                   minute
ml.                    milliliter
mm.                  millimeter
mod.                 moderate
mono                monocyte

N

Na.                   sodium
NAD                nothing abnormal detected
N+V                nausea & vomiting
neg.                  negative
neuro.               Neurology or neurological
no.                    number
noc.                  night
noct.                 nocturnal
non. rep           do not repeat
NPN                nonprotein nitrogen
NPO                nothing by mouth
NS                   neurosurgery
#, No.              number

O

O2                   oxygen
o.d.                  right eye
o.s.                 left eye
O2                 oxygen capacity
O2 sat            oxygen saturation
OB/GYN       obstetrics & gynecology
obs.               Obstetrics or obstetrical
Occ. th.          occupational therapy
ol.                   oil
OO                 right eye
op.                  operation
OR.                 operating room
orth                 orthopedic
OT                  old tuberculin
ou.                   both eyes
oz.                   ounce

P

p                      after
p                      pulse
P                      phosphorus
P2                    pulmonic second heart sound
P32                  radioactive phosphorus
Para I, Para II  primipara, secundipara (indicating a woman of so many children)
paracent           paracentesis
PBI                  protein boun iodine
p.c.                  (Latin: post cibum) after meals
PE                    physical examination
Peds.                Pediatrics

PELVIC MEASUREMENTS:

ant.                   anterior
Post. Sag. D.    posterior sagital diameter
A.P.D.             anteroposterior diameter
bisp.                 bispinous or interspinous diameter
DC                  diagonal conjugate
IT                    intertuberous
OC                 obstetrical conjugate
Tans. D.          transverse diameter
percuss. &       percussion and auscultation. "P &
AUSC. &       A "is disparaged)
p.r.                  per rectum
p.r.n.               (Latin: pro re nata) as often as necessary p4 hydrogen ion concentration
per                  through or by
peri. care         perineal care
PERRLA         pupils equal, round reactive to light and accommodation
PH                  Past History
Phys. Th.         Physicial Therapy
PI                    present illness
pk.                  dissociation constant
PKU               phenylkeronuria
PM                 afternoon, evening (after 12 noon)
PMI                point of maximal impulse
po                   (Latin: per os) by mouth
polyps.             polymorphonuclear leucocytes
POMR             patient oriented medical record
Pop. smear       Papanicolaus smear test
poplit.              popliteal
Post op            postoperative
Pre op              preoperative
prep.                prepare for
prn                  when necessary (total protein is preferred when
prot.                protein referring to a clinical determination of the protein of the blood.)
prothr. cont.     prothrombin content
prothr. time.     prothrombin time
PSP                 phenosulfonphthallein
psych               psychological
PT                   physical therapy
pt.                   patient
pulv.                powder
PZI                  protamine zinc insulin

Q

q                     every
q.s                  quantity sufficient
q.d.                 every day
q.h.                 every hour
q.i.d                every other day
q.o.d.              every other day
qt.                   quart
q2h.                (Latin: quaque duo hora) every two hours q3h (Latin: quaque tres horas) every three hours
q4h                 (Latin: quaque quatuor hora) every four hours
q.(4) i.d           (Latin: quatuor in die) four times a day
q.n.                 (Latin: quaque nocte) every night
q.n.s.               (Latin: quantume non statis) quantity not sufficient
quant.              quantitative or quantity

R

R/ rt.               right
r/resp.             respiration
RBC               red blood cell
rbc.                 red blood cell
Rh                  Rhesus blood factor
RLQ               right lower quadrant
RLL                right lower lobe (lung)
RML               right middle lobe (lung)
RRE                round, regular and equal
RUL                right upper lobe (lung)
RUQ               right upper quadrant
RUQ               right upper quadrant (abdomen)
Rx.                  therapy

S

S.O.S             (Latin: si opus sit) may be repeated once if urgently required
s.s.                  enema, soapsuds enema
s                      without
sang.                sanguineous
sat.                   saturated
sed.rate            erythrocyte sedimentation
SGOT              serum glutamic pyrubic transaminase
SGPT               serum glutamic oxalvacetic transaminase
SH                   Social History
sig.                   Label or write on label
SOB                short of breath
Sol.                  solution (s)
ss.                    one half
sp.gr.               specific gravity
S.R.                 system review
spec.                specimen
SQ (SC)          subcutaneous
ss                     one half
Staph               staphilococcus
stat                  (Latin: statim) immediately and once only
stillb                 stillborn or still birth
strep.               streptococcus
STS                 serologic list for syphilis
Subcut. or        subcutaneous
subs.
subling             under the tongue, sublingual
Surg, or           Surgery or surgical
surg.
SW                 stomach washout
Sx                   symptoms
sympat.           sympathetic
sympt.             Symptom
syr.                  syrup

T

t.i.d                  three times a day
tab.                  tablet
tap.                  teaspoon
tbc.                  tuberculosis
tbsp.                tablespoon
tint. or tr.         tincture
TLC                tender loving care
TPR                temperature, pulse & respiration
TSH                thyroid stimulating hormone
Tx                   treatment

U

U                    unit
U/A                 urine analysis
ung.                 ointment
URI                 upper respiratory infection (included because of general use)
Urol. or rural   Urology or urological
UTI                 urinary tract infection

V

vag.                 vaginal
VC or Vit        vital capacity
VD                  venereal disease
VDRL (test)     venereal disease reaearch laboratory test Via by way of
Vit.                  Vitamin when followed by specific letter, i.e.
                        Vit. C
vo                     verbal order

W

w.a.                  while awake
Wass                Wassermman
WBC                white blood count
Wbc                 white blood cell
WD or WN      well developed, well nourished
Wt                    weight

Notes: w/ and w/o are "with" and without" in everyday English. Common people would not recognize c, s.

Resumen

El uso de abreviaturas como proceso de construcción de palabras se ha vuelto muy productivo en el Inglés actual. Las abreviaciones también han encontrado un camino para la comunicación profesional y rápida. Los principales objetivos de este artículo, son proporcionar algunas oportunidades prácticas para brindar a los que aprenden oportunidades de familiarizarse y practicar abreviaturas de una forma eficaz y comunicativa, y proporcionar un glosario de las abreviaturas utilizadas más frecuentemente por las enfermeras.

DeCS: ABREVIATURAS; COMUNICACION; INSTRUCCION PARA ENFERMERAS [TIPO DE PUBLICACION]

Referencias bibliográficas

  1. Edwards PJ. The register of Hospital English. Int Nurs Rev. 1974;21:37.
  2. Berman H. Practical medicine. La Habana:Editorial Científico-Técnica, 1988:108 (Edición Revolucionaria).
  3. _____. Practical surgery. La Habana: Editorial Científico-Técnica, 1988:102. (Edición Revolucionaria).
  4. Corrales Fuentes J. An internationalist nurse. La Habana:Editorial Pueblo y Educación, 1990:82.
  5. Mc Lean J. English for nurses. Exercises taken from postgraduate course for teachers of ESP at Centro Nacional de Perfeccionamiento Médico (CENAPEM), La Habana, 1998.

Recibido: 21 de marzo del 2001. Aprobado: 14 de mayo del 2001.
Lic. Vivian Amparo Martínez Sánchez. Instituto Superior de Ciencias Médicas de La Habana. Facultad de Ciencias Médicas "Julio Trigo López".

1 Profesora Auxiliar.
2 Profesora Asistente.

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