The Crazy Language of a Nurse

Nursing has its own distinct language. Aside from the normal medical jargon, such as MI, BID, QID, and HOB, we have our own way of communicating to each other that those outside of the profession just wouldn’t understand.

Code Brown – We all know what a code blue is, but a code brown can be worse in some cases. This is when a patient’s BM reaches epic proportions and requires a dedicated crew to clean up.

CTD – This stands for circle the drain, and it is often used in critical care areas. Essentially, it means that a patient is progressively getting worse and that their death – or crash – is imminent.

CTB – Instead of merely saying someone is dead, it is more polite to use this acronym for cease to breathe. This helps nurses communicate delicate information and help to maintain patient privacy in a difficult moment.

Cluster – Sometimes things go wrong, and sometimes they go wrong all at once. When they do, this is often referred to as a cluster, but it is usually followed by a word not suitable for a family web site.

Shift/ Assignment from Hell – If you encounter a great deal of clusters during your shift, then you can probably call it the shift from hell as it put you through a great deal of stress. Similarly, an assignment from hell is one that requires a great amount of work and output of the nurse’s resources.

RRT – This acronym isn’t used in all facilities, and it stands for rapid response team. However, many places are now switching to a paradigm that allows nurses to call for support personnel when a patient is getting ready to crash.

EtOH – This stands for alcohol, and it usually indicates that a patient came in intoxicated or has a problem with alcohol abuse.

Frequent Flyer – These are the patients that seem to get admitted constantly – so much that you know their history by heart. Many of them are very sick, but some of them may tend toward hypochondria.

Seeker – Unfortunately, this phenomenon is getting more common in hospitals. A seeker is someone seeking a high off pain relieving drugs by complaining about a medical problem.

Trauma Drama – When people get into car crashes or other forms of trauma, it usually brings out the worst in the patient and the family. It can devolve into drama that nurses need to sort out.

Helicopter Family – Some families hover like a helicopter over their loved ones, making sure every T is crossed and I is dotted. Many nurses are helicopters when their loved ones are sick.

Holiday Drop Off – It’s sad but true that some overstressed home caregivers bring their loved one to the ER over the holidays, knowing they will be admitted. This allows them to experience the holidays and still have the loved one cared for.

Good Idea Fairy – Management is often visited by the good idea fairy, and this means that nurses are going to suffer the consequences. Usually, someone will think some change in policy is a good idea, and it turns out . . . it isn’t.

Crash and Burn – When a patient crashes unexpectedly and ends up in the ICU or has passed on, this is called a crash and burn. It comes out of the blue most of the time and is a scenario most nurses try to prevent.

Quiet Shift – This phrase should never, ever be said at all during a shift. Those who do will be summarily cussed out because then the shift will become the shift from hell within minutes.