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Talking the Talk: Medical Assistant Terms and Slang

by Allen B. Ury

In your medical assistant career training program, you will learn dozens of new words and phrases that might seem to be part of a whole different language. When you actually start to work as a medical assistant, you'll no doubt encounter even more terms and abbreviations you may not initially understand. Don't worry. All professions, from medicine to auto mechanics, have their own "insider" language to help speed communication. As you work, you'll quickly come to understand what these terms mean. And pretty soon, you'll even start to use the terms yourself (if you haven't already picked them up from viewing E.R., House, or Grey's Anatomy).

 Following is a list of 20 medical terms commonly used in doctors’ offices, clinics, hospitals and other health care facilities -- and what they mean:

Bagging: Helping a patient breathe by manually pumping air through a squeeze bag attached to a plastic mask.

Bounceback: A patient who returns to an emergency room with the same complaint.

BP: The abbreviation for "blood pressure," which measures the force blood exerts on veins and arteries as it moves through the body.

C-Spine: Refers to the cervical vertebrae, which compose the part of the spine between shoulders and the base of the skull.

CBC: The abbreviation for "complete blood count," which is a comprehensive blood test used to detect a variety of diseases and conditions.

Code Blue: The general term for a critical, life-threatening emergency, usually cardiac arrest.

CT: The abbreviation for "computed tomography," also known as a CAT Scan. It's an imaging technology that creates a two-dimensional "slice" through a three-dimensional object, such as a brain.

DeFib: Short for "defibrillator" or "defibrillation." It refers to the need to restart a regular heartbeat, usually through the use of electroshock.

DNR: The abbreviation for "do not resuscitate." This is an order often given by elderly or terminally ill patients who do not want "heroic" measures taken to revive them should they experience heart failure.

Epi: Short for "epinephrine," the hormone also known as adrenaline. It's often used to combat severe allergic reactions and other problems of the nervous system.

GSW: The abbreviation for "gunshot wound."

History: A comprehensive catalog of a patient's medical history, including past diseases and surgeries as well as any current conditions/complaints from which the patient may be suffering. This also includes any medications, prescriptions or otherwise that he/she may be taking.

MVA: The abbreviation for "motor vehicle accident."

Meds: Short for "medications."

OTC: Abbreviation for "over the counter," referring to drugs one can buy freely without a prescription.

Prepped: Short for "prepared." As in, "The patient is prepped for surgery."

Script: Short for "prescription."

Stat: Short for the Latin "statinum," meaning immediately.

Tox Screen: A blood test designed to reveal any alcohol, drugs or other toxins in a patient's bloodstream.

V Tach: Short for "ventricular tachycardia," a dangerously rapid heartbeat.


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