Top 47 slang terms nurses use
Shutterstock | Tyler Olson
If you’ve ever treated a “frequent flyer” patient with a case of “Nintendo thumb” or “Avatar blues,” you may be familiar with this list of 47 humorous nursing lingo terms.
Courtesy of our Scrubs magazine readers and SlangRN.com, we present the newly-updated slang terms nurses use. Scroll to the bottom to submit your favorites!
Definition: Pain in the as$
Usage: The patient’s whiny girlfriend is such a PITA!
Contributed by Scrubs readers Lisa, Amy Wortley, Jeanne Vacca and Mikki Loive
Definition: Broke all to sh*t.
Usage: That poor kid has a BATS fracture from falling out of a tree.
Contributed by Scrubs reader Becca
Definition: “Fluff my pillow” syndrome. A demanding patient that acts sicker than they really are.
Usage: Watch out for room 304; she’s got a real case of FMPS.
Contributed by Scrubs reader Sharon
Definition: Crazy as hell.
Usage: The patient is sweet, but I’m diagnosing his mother with CAH.
Contributed by Scrubs reader Vernika
Definition: Failure to fly. Usually used in cases of head bumps, but can be used to describe various traumas.
Usage: She broke her leg jumping off the roof–I’m diagnosing it as a FTF.
Contributed by Scrubs reader NurseDaisy
Definition: A patient so complex or high maintenance that they have to be rotated to a different nurse each day to prevent staff burnout.
Usage: She uses the call button so often that she’s going to be a rotater!
Contributed by Scrubs reader Rebecca
7. Dr. Too Long
Definition: A nurse’s message for a physician who is tied up with a very long-winded patient and can’t escape.
Usage: Excuse me, Doctor? Dr. Too Long needs to speak with you immediately!
Contributed by Scrubs reader Jan D
8. Jack in the Box
Definition: A patient who can’t stand or walk yet insists on trying.
Contributed by scrubsmag.com Facebook fan, Susan Broadway
Definition: An acronym used in the ER which stands for ‘Fall Down Go Boom.’
Contributed by scrubsmag.com Facebook fan, Tiffany Pizzimenti
Definition: A shortened version of ‘Follow Up.’
Fun (and cautionary) fact: The contributor of this term actually got in trouble by the state surveyor for using it in his charting!
Contributed by scrubsmag.com Facebook fan, John Allen Hough
Definition: A patient who is a tanning booth victim.
Contributed by scrubsmag.com Facebook fan, Ruth Metzger
Definition: A patient with multiple health problems and multiple diagnoses that has no business on a med-surg floor but doesn’t “qualify” for ICU until they code in the middle of the night.
Contributed by scrubsmag.com reader, Tabatha
Visit the next page to conintue reading!
13. The Whine Line
Definition: A term used among prison nurses referring to inmates who suddenly need to see medical because it’s raining and they don’t want to go to work. In the hospital they are the uninsured that show up in the ER at 0200 with sniffles, etc.
Usage: It’s cold and rainy out there. Gonna have a whine line this morning.
Contributed by scrubsmag.com reader, Linda
14. Malibu Barbie School of Medicine
Definition: Where the resident doctors who wear six inch heels, short skirts, and acrylic nail tips attended medical school.
Contributed by scrubsmag.com reader, Kelli Waller
15. lantern test
Definition: To shine a pen light in a patient’s mouth and see their eyes light up (i.e. they have no brain).
Usage: She thought Smucker’s could be used as contraceptive jelly. I think she’d fail the lantern test.
16. young invincibles
Definition: A term used by the healthcare industry along with the government to describe the growing population of uninsured twenty-somethings. This group is considered to be among the healthiest. There are many reasons why these young adults lack insurance: They’re no longer on their parents’ plan, they have jobs that don’t offer employer-based coverage, etc. Of the ones who do have insurance, many will decline either because of financial reasons or simply a feeling of being “invincible,” so it’s not a priority. This growing population of uninsured young adults is a concern of the United States Senate Committee on Finance and measures are being undertaken to address this problem.
Usage: Every year, more and more of our new employees are refusing our health insurance. These young invincibles will have to learn the hard way!
17. Nintendo thumb
Definition: A video game-related health problem classified as a form of repetitive strain injury (RSI). The symptoms are the blistering, paraesthesia and swelling of the thumbs, mainly through use of the directional pad, though any finger can be affected. This can lead to stress on tendons, nerves and ligaments in the hands, and further onto lateral epicondylitis (“tennis elbow”), tendinitis, bursitis and carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).
Usage: Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A. Ow! I think I have Nintendo thumb.
Synonyms: gamer’s grip, Nintenditis, PlayStation thumb
18. another one bites the dust
Definition: A 1980s funk-rock song by Queen with a tempo that approximates the proper interval between CPR chest compressions when hummed in your head.
Usage: Jane: Am I performing the chest compressions too quickly?” Tammy: “Ever heard the 1980s smash hit ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ by Queen? Just hum that tune, do your compressions in step with the song’s tempo and you’ll be fine.”
Synonyms: staying alive
19. professional patient
Definition: A person who feigns illnesses for various reasons. PPs often include malingerers filling a psychological need, drug runners seeking prescriptions or drugs to be sold later, and those with Munchausen syndrome.
Usage: Man, this guy’s definitely a professional patient. As soon as we offered morphine, he quickly said it made him sick and asked for Dilaudid.
20. pumpkin positive
Definition: The notion that a patient’s brain is so small that shining a penlight into her mouth will result in her empty head glowing like a Halloween pumpkin.
Usage: Well, I just had a patient admit to using Smucker’s as contraceptive jelly. Needless to say she’s pumpkin positive.
Synonyms: dumb, stupid, dolt, idiot, moron
21. Avatar blues
Definition: The depression experienced by a select few people after having viewed James Cameron’s 2009 box office hit movie Avatar. The movie depicts an idyllic world with a tight-knit tribe of aliens battling to save their planet from human invaders. Themes in the movie include analogs to modern-day problems like global warming, war and capitalism, threaded together with a love story. The movie’s most prevalent feature is its cinematic effects, particularly 3-D.
Viewers leaving the theaters have been said to reflect on their current life or how authentically it paralleled the destruction of our own earth, and a helpless feeling.
CNN was the first to report this phenomenon, and it is disputed whether this is a true clinical problem or glorified reporting.
Usage: Person 1: Jack’s not coming out with us tonight—what’s going on? Person 2: He fell victim to the Avatar blues. Same thing happened to him in 1977…but that could have just been his struggle with puberty.
22. Botox Raton
Definition: City in Florida that used to be called “Boca Raton,” but they changed the name for obvious reasons.
Usage: Halfway between Palm Beach and Miami, there’s Botox Raton.
Definition: Sudden attack or seizure of muscle activity.
Usage: We were watching The Biggest Loser on TV and she just started having fits.
24. fighting Darwin
Definition: A patient is fighting Darwin if he or she refuses essential treatment through stubbornness or stupidity.
Usage: She’s refusing all medical care because it’s the Sabbath. Boy, she’s really fighting Darwin.
25. chart dehiscence
Definition: When a patient’s chart is dropped and everything falls out.
Usage: Oh! Not again! Second chart dehiscence of the night!
Definition: A crude indicator of a person’s cumulative cigarette consumption, equal to the number of packs of cigarettes smoked/day multiplied by years of consumption.
Usage: We should really measure his consumption in pack-years. It’s probably close to 150.
27. jimmy leg
Definition: An uncontrollable shake or tremor of the leg.
Usage: I couldn’t fall asleep next to her, dude she’s got the jimmy legs.
Synonyms: jimmy legs, the shakes
Definition: Bacitracin. An antibiotic used in wound irrigation operatively. Pronounced bass-e (bass like the fish).
Usage: Tech to relief tech: “This has baci in it.”
29. Band-Aid hospital
Definition: A popular term for a healthcare facility that provides for minimal care of significance.
Usage: I was hoping to get a job at a Level I trauma center, not at a Band-Aid hospital. I guess you don’t always get what you want. I learned that from the Rolling Stones.
Definition: The nurse who just came off of a six-week training course and acts as though she is a doctor.
Usage: What’s with the new noctor on the floor? Can you believe she had to gall to demand the patient with the Swan?
31. pharm party
Definition: Where kids get together to share drugs pilfered from their parents’ pill bottles. Painkillers such as Percocet, Vicodin, OxyContin and other similar drugs are preferred for their “feel good” and numbing effect. Alcohol is routinely combined while taking the drugs.
There have been reports of kids openly sharing the pills in one communal bowl with no identifying information about the drug; sometimes the drugs are presented mixed together in a bag they call “trail mix.”
Some experts argue there is a lack of substantive data to label this as a phenomenon or a growing problem, and is more likely something sensationalized by media, law enforcement and educators.
Usage: Person 1: What do you guys want to do tonight? Person 2: Pharm party at Andy’s. I’m trying to get some of my brother’s OxyContin.
Synonyms: pharma party, pharming party, pill party
Created by hollywood, Mar 16, 2010
32. pothole sign
Definition: A clinical sign of acute appendicitis, referring to the severe pain evoked by every bump (or pothole) in the road felt on the drive to the hospital.
Usage: Yeah, he was positive for the pothole sign—said the ride in was brutal.
33. negative wallet biopsy
Definition: When a patient is transferred to a cheaper, less intensive hospital after discovering he has no health insurance.
Usage: Yeah, the negative wallet biopsy meant he was going to King-Harbor. Welcome to healthcare in America.
34. black vomit
Definition: Vomit from old black blood due to ulcers or yellow fever.
Usage: I saw the black vomit and I knew she was in trouble.
35. silent killer
Definition: A slang term for a condition that can progress to very advanced stages before manifesting itself clinically.
Usage: They say that obesity is the silent killer, but I’d say that it’s really all the heroin that he’s been doing for the past 10 years.
36. fluid overload
Definition: Hypervolemia. It’s the medical condition where there is too much fluid in the blood. This fluid, primarily salt and water, builds up in various locations in the body and leads to an increase in weight, swelling in the legs and arms (peripheral edema), and/or fluid in the abdomen (ascites). Eventually, the fluid enters the air spaces in the lungs, reduces the amount of oxygen that can enter the blood and causes shortness of breath (dyspnea). Fluid can also collect in the lungs when lying down at night, possibly making nighttime breathing and sleeping difficult (paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea).
Usage: I’m a little worried that we may run the risk of fluid overload if we perform the surgery.
37. medical futility
Definition: Either a judgment that further medical treatment of a patient would have no useful result or a medical treatment whose success is possible although reasoning and experience suggest that it’s highly improbable.
Usage: What do I think? Medical futility.
38. the patient is high risk
Definition: The patient has HIV, Aids, or Hepatitis, so be aware.
Usage: Be sure to wear eye protection, the patient is high risk.
Created by hollywood on slangrn.com, Apr 06, 2010
39. questionable doctor
Definition: A physician who has been sanctioned for serious state and federal offenses and placed on a list by the Public Citizen’s Health Research Group.
Usage: Umm, he’s a questionable doctor. He’s been sanctioned for handing out painkillers like Tic Tacs.
Synonyms: impaired physician
Definition: New parent syndrome. A propensity to bring your child to the hospital for every trivial thing. Used in charting.
Usage: Baby had hiccups, sent home. NPS.
41. frequent flyer
Definition: One who visits healthcare providers, emergency departments, etc. for every little health problem, often drug seeking or wanting work excuses.
— contributed by scrubsmag.com reader, Kelly
Definition: The cute little old men who are a joy to take care of.
— contributed by scrubsmag.com reader, Grace
Definition: An acronym used in the ER which stands for ‘Big ‘Ol Needle in the A$$.’
Usage: I’m about to give this patient a bonita.
— contributed by scrubsmag.com Facebook fan, Tiffany Pizzimenti
Defintion: Acronym for ‘Done Fell Out.’
— contributed by scrubsmag.com Facebook fan, Nanci Leigh Nix
Definition: Acronym for Makes Decisions.
Usage: Do you see MD after my name? That means Makes Decisions.
— contributed by scrubsmag.com Facebook fan, Maranda Thompson
Definition: Acronym for Refuses/Resists Nonsense.
Usage: Do you see RN after my name? It stands for Resists/Refuses Nonsense!
— contributed by scrubsmag.com Facebook fan, Maranda Thompson
Definition: Acronym for ‘Too Many Birthdays.’
— contributed by scrubsmag.com Facebook fan, Amanda Belcher Klumpp
More humorous slang terms can be found at slangrn.com.
Thank you to all the nurses who have contributed to this article! What are the slang terms you hear in your specialty? Share them below.