Abbreviations are used frequently in hospitals, however, in recent years there has been an insistence on avoiding abbreviations or symbols which may be confusing. This is most important in drug administration. An excellent website for national standards regarding acceptable abbreviations in Australia is the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care. Find it at http://www.safetyandquality.gov.au/
Read the pdf called ‘Recommendations for Terminology, Abbreviations and Symbols
used in the Prescribing and Administration of Medicines’
You will find a set of tables at the end which explain changes in some abbreviations which were changed because they were considered to be unclear. Some of you who have worked in other English-speaking countries will notice that there are a few differences between Australian abbreviations and those you may be familiar with. I’ll look at these later.
The abbreviations in the table which you will probably be dealing with in the stimulus material of the OET writing subtest are those relating to the administration of medications, specifically:
* TIMES OF ADMINISTRATION - daily ( not OD or d), bd (not BID), tds ( not TID)
- mane ( in the morning) , nocte (at night) , stat (give immediately), prn (give whenever necessary), OTC (over-the-counter medicines), TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine)
* FREQUENCY OF ADMINISTRATION – every 4 hours -add times e.g. 06:00,10:00 etc- not 4/24
* DAYS, MONTHS,WEEKS - I day (not 1/7), 1 mth (not 1/12) and 1 wk (not 1/52)
The abbreviations 4/24 or 6/24 etc are still quite common in IV fluid administration, however, the recommendation is to write 4 hr or 6 hr.
* DOSAGE – g, mg , mcg (or microgram), ml, units, mg per ml
Other abbreviations have been removed from the list of accepted abbreviations because they are felt to be dangerous or ambiguous. The most common are:
Form to be written now:
Units (write in full) e.g. 5 units Humalog insulin
Sliding Scale (write in full) e.g. sliding scale insulin
R eye / L eye/ both eyes (specify which eye/eyes)
As well as abbreviations, some symbols are also avoided. For example, when charting a urinalysis result, we used to write + ( and say ‘One plus of protein’) , ++, +++ etc .This is an easy one as you can use the correct amount which is also included on the label of the urinalysis sticks. It is less clear if you describe the discharge of a wound as being ‘++ drainage from wound drain’. This supposedly meant ‘ a moderate amount of drainage’ but it was never clear ‘whose’ moderate we were referring to. One nurse’s idea of ‘moderate’ may not be another nurse’s idea of moderate. It is now required that you say exactly how much drainage there is e.g. 120 ml drainage. It is quite acceptable to write ‘minimal drainage of <20 mls’ if it is not possible to accurately measure a very small amount.
Differences from country to country
1. Nurses who have worked in the UK may be confused by the abbreviation 1/24 as the abbreviation '1to the power zero' (see below) is used for ‘hourly’ or ‘over an hour’. In Australia. this abbreviation would be read as ‘primary’ e.g. a primary carcinoma and is on the list of confusing abbreviations.
2. In Australia, the abbreviations bd, tds and qid are used. In the UK, bd, tds and qds are used.
See below: symbol used to mean 'primary' in Australia.