The Medical field is full of Terms and Acronyms. Here we have compiled a list to help you understand some of the terminology, both medical and slang.

Clearly it is a work in progress as new terms are coming along all the time, but we hope that it will be of use to you.

Some of the slang terms may sound a bit callous, but consider the different traumas that frontline personnel will see on a regular basis. They need to develop a coping mechanism otherwise they would not be able to do their job effectively. Black humour is a way of coping.

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  • 111
    • The non-emergency Ambulance number in the UK. if you want medical advice, but don’t think that it warrants an Ambulance response.
  • 999 / 112 / 911
    • The emergency Ambulance number in the UK. For any medical emergency. 999 is the main number, 112 is the European equivalent and 911 is the North American equivalent, both of which are treated as though the person dialled 999.
    • These numbers may be dialled from a mobile ‘phone keypad even if keylock is activated.
  • ABC
    • Airway, Breathing, Commence CPR. The first thing to be done once the area is safe. If the patient is not breathing, this needs to be dealt with before anything else. See also DR ABC
  • AED
    • Automated External Defibrillator – see Defibrillator
  • Analgesia
    • Pain relief – Paracetamol, Entonox, Morphine, Ketamine etc.
  • Asystole
    • Medical – lack of electrical activity in the heart (flatline)
  • AVPU
    • Acronym that measures a patient’s level of response – Alert, Responds to Voice, Responds to Pain, Unresponsive. Especially useful for monitoring trends over time.
  • Awarding Organisation
    • A Company that liaises between a Training Centre and a Regulator. It monitors the Centre’s (and its Trainers’) qualifications and performs visits to observe it delivering courses on the Regulator’s behalf.
  • Cardiac Arrest
    • A condition where the heart stops beating effectively, leading to a rapid deterioration and eventually death if not reversed. Not to be confused with Heart Attack (qv)
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation / CPR
    • A lifesaving technique involving compressing the chest to assist blood circulation and blowing air into the mouth to deliver oxygen to the patient
  • CFR / Community (First) Responder
    • A volunteer trained up by the Ambulance Service to assist with the more serious 999 ambulance calls.
  • Co-Responder
    • A person from an alternative Service (e.g. Police, RAF) trained to assist with the more serious 999 ambulance calls. They may or may not do it in a voluntary capacity.
  • CRB
    • Criminal Records Bureau report. Now superseded buy DBS (qv)
  • CTD
    • Slang – Circling the drain, in other words, close to death.
  • DBS
    • Disclosure and Barring Service (replaces CRB) report, that checks the criminal background of a person.
  • Defibrillator
    • A device that delivers a controlled electric shock across a heart in an attempt to reset it and get it beating on its own again.
  • DR ABC
    • Acronym to remember the order when dealing with serious incidents. Check for: Danger, Response, Airway, Breathing and C=Commence CPR if not breathing (and 999 has been dialled).
  • Entonox
    • An Analgesic (painkiller). Consists of a 50:50 mix of Oxygen and Nitrous Oxide. Also called ‘Laughing gas’ and is used for pain relief during injury treatment as well as for childbirth.
  • Heart Attack
    • A condition where part of the heart’s blood supply gets blocked, depriving part of the heart of oxygen and causing it to start to die. Not to be confused with Angina nor Cardiac Arrest (qv).
  • HSE
    • The Health and Safety Executive. Oversees Health and Safety in the UK.
  • Hyper
    • Hyper is from the Greek meaning ‘high’. Can refer to anything being abnormally high such as hyperthermia (too hot) or Hyperglycaemia (Blood sugar levels too high)
  • Hypo
    • Hypo is from the Greek meaning ‘low’. Can refer to anything being abnormally low, but often used in a Diabetic context to mean low blood sugar level.
  • LOL
    • Slang – Little old Lady
  • MHFA
    • Mental Health First Aid
  • MOP
    • Member Of the Public. Often a derogatory term
  • Myocardial infarction (MI)
    • A blockage in one of the blood vessels that supplies the heart. Also known as a Heart Attack. If there are no external symptoms it is known as a ‘Silent MI’
  • Normal Sinus Rhythm / NSR
    • Normal regular heartbeat. Patient is healthy and a defibrillator, if monitoring will not allow a shock to occur
  • Purple Plus
    • Slang – Dead
  • Regulator
    • A Body that monitors compliance to standards. Typical ones are Ofqual for First Aid Qualifications and the Care Quality Commission for care delivery.
    • A device that controls the flow of gas (e.g. Entonox) to a patient
  • RICE
    • An acronym standing for Rest, Ice, Comfortable Support, Elevation. Used in the treatment of Strains or Sprains.
  • Sprain
    • An overextension of a ligament
  • STEMI
    • Acronym standing for ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction. A type of Heart Attack. The ‘ST’ refers to part of the heart’s electrical waveform.
  • Strain
    • An overextension of a muscle or tendon
  • Ventricular Fibrillation / VF
    • Random electrical activity in the heart, preventing it from beating properly. One of the rhythms shockable by a defibrillator.
  • Ventricular Tachycardia / VT / Pulseless VT
    • A condition where the heart is beating too fast and not allowing enough time for it to refill with blood, preventing it from beating properly. One of the rhythms shockable by a defibrillator.