Monday, 26 January 2015

Medicalisms

Now before your blood pressure starts rising, yes I'm prefectly aware that "medicalism" isn't a word.  But I originally titled this post "Things medical people say", but that had NO zing to it, so I dropped it faster than a politician drops all his political promises exactly 24 hours after he wins an election.  So I decided to coin "medicalism" instead, until a 0.289 second Google search told me that someone already did back in the 1800's.  Damn it . . . only missed it by 180 years or so.  Anyway, even though I'm not quite as clever and creative as I thought, every industry has their fair share of acronyms and nicknames and complex terminology that is known only to its insiders, and medicine is no exception.  I sometimes think that doctors like to use big sciency-sounding words just to make themselves look and sound smarter than everyone else.  Consider:
Doctor: Your daughter seems to have epistaxis.
Mother: Oh my god!  Is that fatal??!  How long does she have?
Doctor: Epistaxis is just a nosebleed, madam.
Mother: Well why didn't you just say "nosebleed" then, asshole?
Why else would a doctor say that a patient has an erythematous eruption rather than a red rash other than because he thinks it sounds more complicated?  Does "abscess" sound more scientific than "pus"?  (Ok, maybe it does and that's just a terrible example.)  For some reason doctors seem to feel some overwhelming need to say that an ankle is edematous instead of swollen, "palpate" rather than "touch", "percuss" not "tap", and "auscultate" instead of "listen".  Maybe we think it sets us apart from the general public somehow.  Maybe it's our way of clinging desperately to the "We're smarter than everyone else" reputation.  And maybe that's why that reputation is crumbling so rapidly.

Regardless, there are dozens of terms used in medicine that don't quite make their way into everyday conversation.  So thanks to the inspiration of Dr. Mark Reid's Twitter feed (@medixalaxioms) I've started to compile a list of terms that people in the medical field use that everyone else may not quite understand.
  • When nonmedical people say "SOB", they mean it as an insult, not short of breath.
  • When nonmedical people say "lol", they mean something is funny, not little old lady.
  • When nonmedical people say "CC", they mean carbon copy, not chief complaint.
  • When nonmedical people say "RT", they mean they are retweeting, not respiratory therapy.
  • When nonmedical people say "lap", they mean a place children sit, not minimally invasive surgery.
  • When nonmedical people say "open", they mean ajar, not widely invading the peritoneal cavity.
  • When nonmedical people say "pearl", they mean something taken from an oyster, not a useful tidbit of medical information.
  • When nonmedical people say "BID", they are trying to buy something on eBay, not instructions to take or do something twice a day.
  • When nonmedical people say "floor", they mean what you're standing on, not a non-ICU hospital ward.
  • When nonmedical people say "pimp", they mean a prostitute's boss, not grilling medical students on difficult information they probably shouldn't know yet.
  • When nonmedical people say "rounds", they mean ammunition, not seeing patients in hospital.
  • When nonmedical people say "cabbage", they mean a vegetable, not a coronary artery bypass graft.  Speaking of which . . .
  • When nonmedical people say "vegetable", they mean an edible plant, not a permanently-comatose patient.
  • When nonmedical people say "staff", they mean a group of employed people, not a potentially-deadly infection.
  • When nonmedical people say "shot", they mean 44.36 ml of liquor, not poking people with needles.
  • When nonmedical people say "spin", they mean using an exercise bicycle, not getting a CT scan.
  • When nonmedical people say "Scope", they mean minty mouthwash, not a 2-meter long tube used to look up your ass.
  • When nonmedical people say "arrest", they mean something that police officers do, not something the 90-year old woman having an MI just did.
  • When nonmedical people say "JP", they mean Mr. Morgan, not a type of surgical drain.
  • When nonmedical people say "reduce", they mean decrease, not putting a dislocated joint back in.
  • When nonmedical people say "pronounce", they mean how to say something, not to declare someone dead.
  • When nonmedical people say "PEG", they mean a short cylindrical piece of wood, not a feeding tube.
  • When nonmedical people say "tele", they mean the box you use to watch idiots make fools of themselves, not a monitor used to watch vital signs.
  • When nonmedical people say "sux", they mean that something is terrible, not an anaesthesia medicine that paralyses you within seconds.
  • When nonmedical people say "tank", they mean a vessel for storing things, not expanding intravascular volume.
  • When nonmedical people say "crash", they mean something you do in your car, not someone dying.
  • When nonmedical people say "clear", they mean transparent or obvious, not "GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE WAY, I'M ABOUT TO SHOCK THIS GUY."
  •  When nonmedical people say "stool", they mean a place to rest your ass, not what comes out of it.
I'm sure there are several I'm forgetting, and by "several" I of course mean "hundreds".  I'm fully expecting commenters to help me and my terrible memory.  If anyone has other medicalisms to share, please do.

17 comments:

  1. when fire/rescue people say "crash" the two usages are not mutually exclusive - and the causal relationship may go either way.

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  2. When nonmedical people say "pimp", they mean a prostitute's boss, not grilling medical students on difficult information they probably shouldn't know yet.

    So it has a name. Will Pimping seems more frequent in day 1 of every rotation. And then somehow we become invisible!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Tacky. I was in the hospital and one of the nurses came in saying I looked tacky right after getting staples in my head. I thought she was being a smartass because I just got staples in my head and looked like crap. But apparently it's a medical term, the internet says for rapid heart beat, but I don't think that was quite the context.

    On that note, I think it's slightly more unnerving when medical terms DO mean what they sound like. For example when the doctor says "I'm going to staple your head shut now", and then proceeds to pull out a literal stapler. I laughed because I thought he was joking. He wasn't.

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  4. You forgot BS not bull shit, bowel sounds or breath sounds.....by the way, this American NICU respiratory therapist LOVES your blog!!!

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  5. also, PICC, not as in pick your nose or your ass, but the central iv catheter

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  6. sorry, one more....PDA is patent ductus arteriosis, not public display of affection

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  7. "My God, man! Do you want an acute case on your hands? This woman has immediate post-prandial upper abdominal distension! Now, out of the way! Get out of the way!"

    ...

    "What did you say she has?"

    "Cramps."

    ReplyDelete
  8. Ah yes - I've often wondered - when the doctor says "Ohi! F*ck off out of my trauma bay before I call security!" what does he really mean?

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  9. In the fire service, we also have
    BT = Burnt Toast (set off a smoke alarm)
    Butt Breather (in honor of one dispatcher who would dispatch to a patient who was unconscious, but breathing)
    DRT = Dead, Right There. (my first DRT was a guy who had rolled his pickup down an embankment, been partially ejected, and bodily slammed against a tree. wear your seat belts, folks.)
    Frequent Flyer = anyone who goes to the ER often enough that the response crews have come to know them on a first-name basis

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  10. PITA written on the chart does not mean a type of flat bread. It stands for a, "Pain In The Ass" patient.

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  11. "Bulky" uterus amused me, as did my surgeon's description of an ovary as "mangled" (by adhesions)

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  12. Had a very polite teenager s/p tonsillectomy and I was giving a bedside report to the oncoming shift nurse. I stated he had done well but complained of some pain and nausea with no vomiting. He looked ashamed and started to apologize for "whining" and didn't mean to "complain". We laughed and quickly and explained "complaint" was a medical term and did not mean in the least bit that he was whiny. Great list Doc!

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  13. When nonmedical people say "pressure", they mean apply a small amount of force, not pain.

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  14. Loved the one for "Clear"

    Stick: not a piece of a tree, but putting a needle into another person
    Port: not a harbor for boats, but a surgically implanted access point for medications/blood draws
    Brady: not a name/person, but slow breathing and/or heartbeat
    Code: not a means of encryption, but a person that is about to/has quit breathing/has no pulse

    ~ AnonRN

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  15. When a non-medical person says "emergent," he means "budding," or coming into being or prominence, as in an emergent democracy. When a medical person says "emergent," he means "urgent" or "emergency."

    ReplyDelete

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