Nurse Shorthand: 11 Medical Terms Used by Nurses

Do you know if the hospital is running well? If you are a nurse, do you know the life of your patients outside of your care? Are you, yourself, well?

If you don’t know how, how can you know how to help? Fortunately, there are good pieces of shorthand for nurses. Learn a few of them, and you will increase your value to the staff around you.

If you need nurse shorthand assistance, stick around and learn a few. Let’s get started!

1. LAD

LAD stands for left anterior descending artery and is a major artery that carries oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscles.

This artery is also referred to as the “widow-maker” due to the severe consequences that a blockage or any other disorder of this artery can pose.

Nurses may refer to this artery in various medical terms such as ‘coronary artery’, ‘left descending coronary artery’, ‘anterior interventricular artery’, and ‘first diagonal branch’. diagnose and treat any issues related to it.

2. AOB

Alcohol on breath (AOB) is a term used by nurses to describe the smell of alcohol on a patient’s breath. It can be an indicator of alcohol consumption and can reflect a patient’s current health or lifestyle.

In nursing practice, AOB is important to be aware of as it has implications for patient care and health conditions. An AOB assessment can provide useful information on the patient’s alcohol consumption, behaviors, and medical conditions.

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3. TPR

TPR temperature, pulse, and respirations are medical terms commonly used by nurses to assess a patient’s overall health and well-being.

Temperature is taken orally or rectally to measure the body’s temperatures and check for signs of infections or fever. Pulse is taken on the patient’s wrist or neck with a stethoscope or manual method to measure their heart rate and identify any irregular beats.

Lastly, respirations are taken by counting the number of breaths a patient takes in one minute.


AVPU stands for Alert, Voice, Pain, and Unresponsive. This acronym is used to assess the patient’s responsiveness at different levels of consciousness.

Alert refers to a conscious patient who is able to follow commands and carry on conversations. Voice refers to a lethargic patient who responds to verbal commands but does not initiate conversation.

Pain refers to a patient who responds to verbal commands as well as physical stimuli such as pressure on the chest or extremities. Unresponsive refers to a patient who does not react to verbal commands or physical stimuli.

5. DNR

DNR, or “do not resuscitate”, is a medical term used by nurses to indicate that no aggressive measures are to be taken should a patient enter cardiac or respiratory arrest.

This term is usually indicated in the patient’s medical records as part of advanced directives, or as a result of discussions with the patient, their healthcare proxy, and the healthcare team.

Depending on the patient’s medical complexity, a “comfort measures only” order may be included with the DNR, which dictates that only those measures that do not involve resuscitation should be taken if the patient’s condition significantly worsens.

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6. BLS

Basic life support (BLS) is a set of life-saving skills and techniques used by medical personnel and healthcare providers in emergency situations.

Nurses who provide BLS must be familiar with medical terms and definitions related to the administration of BLS. Some of the most commonly-used BLS medical terms used by nurses include “respiratory arrest” (a total stoppage of breathing) “cardiac arrest” (heart stops beating) and “obstructed airway” (use of the Heimlich maneuver).

7. Scrubs

Nurses often use medical terms while discussing scrubs. Common terms used by nurses when discussing include:

  • Cap sleeve scrub
  • Split v-neck scrub
  • Petite ties
  • Petite side panel

These terms refer to the particular style of petite scrubs, where the sleeves are slightly shorter than normal and the neckline may be split down the middle.

8. VS

VS (or Vital Signs) are medical terms used by nurses to assess a patient’s overall health. VS includes measurements such as temperature, pulse, respiration rate, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation.

For instance, a nurse may measure a patient’s temperature before administering medications. Similarly, they may take a pulse and blood pressure reading to assess cardiovascular health.

9. MI

Myocardial infarction (MI) is a medical term used by nurses to describe a situation in which a portion of the heart muscle is deprived of its normal blood supply, leading to tissue death.

Although MI is usually caused by a blockage in a coronary artery, it can also be caused by other conditions. Nurses are familiar with the various medical terms associated with MI, including ischemia, myocardial ischemia, angina, arrhythmia, tachycardia, cardiomyopathy, and more.

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10. CHF

CHF (congestive heart failure) is a medical condition that occurs when the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs.

Nurses working with patients with CHF will use the following medical terms when communicating with the patient, physician, or family members. They will explain the concept of “Left-sided heart failure” which involves the heart’s inability to effectively pump, resulting in blood and fluid congestion in the lungs (pulmonary edema) and/or other body parts.

11. GERD

GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease is a chronic digestive disorder caused by the malfunctioning of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) which allows stomach contents to escape back up into the esophagus.

Common symptoms of GERD include heartburn, regurgitation, chest pain, and difficulty swallowing. Nurses are often called upon to accurately identify and describe medical terms related to the disease in order to ensure patient safety, the accuracy of diagnosis, and proper treatment.

Learn More About Nurse Shorthand Today

Nurse shorthand is to quickly and accurately communicate, so it’s important for them to be familiar with all medical terms. By mastering this terminology, nurses can come to feel confident in effectively expressing their concerns with other healthcare professionals.

So, if you’re a nurse, take a closer look at these medical terms and start incorporating them into your practice today!

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