Doctors’ jargon to watch for on your medical notes…

Updated January 25th, 2020. Doctors’ abbreviations, acronyms and slang terms actually used on patients’ notes have been on the way out for some years now, if we are to believe this article from the BBC’s News Online, way back in August 2003.

Would they have said you were ‘Paws Up,’ or just PBS?

And not because of high technology or computerized patient records – especially in the UK where most hospital notes are still done on paper because the various IT systems within our noble National Health Service can’t talk to each other despite many millions being wasted on trying. 

No, it’s because most of them were extremely rude (and funny.)

Litigation rears its ugly head

At the time the article was written, it quoted a Dr Adam Fox who at the time worked at St Mary’s Hospital in London as a specialist registrar in their pediatric allergy unit. He felt that already in 2003, far fewer doctors were scribbling down these delightful phrases that described their opinions of patients.

And it’s hardly surprising.

“The increasing rate of litigation means that there is a far higher chance that doctors will be asked in court to explain the exact meaning of NFN (Normal for Norfolk), FLK (Funny looking kid) or GROLIES (Guardian Reader Of Low Intelligence in Ethnic Skirt),” the article quotes.

“Dr Fox recounts the tale of one doctor who had scribbled TTFO – an expletive expression roughly translated as “Told To Go Away” – on a patient’s notes. He told BBC News Online: ‘This guy was asked by the judge what the acronym meant, and luckily for him he had the presence of mind to say: To Take Fluids Orally.’”

Has it really gone away?

It’s never safe to assume such things have disappeared, especially when highly stressed health professionals need a break from the tension and look for a little light relief in a laugh or two.

Here, then are some of the others the BBC News Online article highlighted, plus additional gems which I have found elsewhere:

CATS  Cut All To Shit, trauma patients

CCFCCP  Coo Coo For CoCoa Puffs, patient with learning difficulties

CHARLIE CARROTS  Stroke patient

COFFIN DODGER  seriously ill patient

CTD  Circling The Drain, i.e. expected to die soon

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DBI  Dirt Bag Index – A&E/Emergency Room expression adding up tattoos,missing  teeth, estimated days since patient last took a shower

DRT  Dead Right There

DEPARTURE LOUNGE  geriatric ward

DIGGING FOR WORMS  varicose vein surgery

FDGB  Fall Down, Go Boom, trauma patients

FREUD SQUAD  psychiatrists

GASSERS  anaesthetists/anesthesiologists

GLM  Good Looking Mom

GLOWWORMS  HAZMAT (Hazardous Materials) workers

GPO  Good for Parts Only

HAMBURGER HELPER  badly injured trauma patient

HIBGIA  Had It Before, Got It Again

LOBNH  Lights On But Nobody Home

MUH  Messed-Up Heart

PAWS UP  dead patient

PBS  Pretty Bad Shape

PFO  Patient Fell Over

PGT  Patient Got Thumped

PHARMACEUTICALLY GIFTED  patient off face on recreational drugs

PUMPKIN POSITIVE  implies that a light shone into the patient’s mouth would encounter a brain so small that the whole head would light up like a Jack-o’-lantern

PVC CHALLENGE  trauma, endotracheal intubation

SLASHERS  Surgeons

TBC  Total Body Crunch, trauma patient

TEETH  Tried Everything Else, Try Homeopathy

UBI  Unexplained Beer Injury

Even if these expressions do become defunct in doctors’ notes, it’s worth our while to hang on to them – they may come in handy to add into notes during business meetings!

What abbreviations, acronyms and other jargon have you noticed on your hospital or doctor’s notes that you don’t understand? Please share!