9 words and phrases only nurses understand

Christopher Furlong/Getty ImagesYou probably won’t see this nurse slang in a medical textbook anywhere.
  • If you’ve ever been a patient in the ER or a doctor’s office, odds are you’ve heard a nurse throw around some unusual words or phrases.
  • Thanks to popular TV hospital dramas, we’re familiar with phrases such as “coding,” “stat,” and “crash cart.”
  • But there are other names, phrases, and abbreviations nurses use to describe situations and patients to each other that you just wouldn’t know the meaning of unless you asked.

Medical jargon is pretty tricky for anyone outside the profession to understand.

TV shows and documentaries have gone some way in shedding light on some of the confusing acronyms and phrases used in hospitals and doctors’ offices.

But there are still plenty of words we’re left in the dark about.

Business Insider asked seven nurses and scoured Quora to find out just what the secret phrases nurses use on the job really mean.


Frequent flyer

In the medical world, patients who show up to the ER time and time again with various different ailments are often referred to as “frequent flyers,” Liz, a nurse with two years of experience, told Business Insider.


Rose Cottage or celestially discharged

The Rose Cottage sounds like a lovely place, but you might want to hold off before you book a two-night stay.

Marianne, a nurse with four years of experience, told Business Insider that in the UK, Rose Cottage is what nurses call the mortuary. And they often call the deceased a “Rosey.”

When someone dies in the US they’re said to have been celestially discharged, Redditor mikenesmith wrote in response to the thread “The secret slang of hospitals.”


Tachy

This isn’t a misspelling for “tacky.” If you overhear a nurse say “tachy’ they’re not insulting a patient’s dress sense. Marianne said it’s short for tachycardia, which means a fast heart rate.


Code brown

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You might be familiar with code blue – an emergency code for an immediate resuscitation that’s often shouted on shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” and “ER.” But have you ever heard of a code brown?

Nancy, a nurse with 45 years of experience, told Business Insider that it’s used when there’s a poop situation. Specifically, when a patient needs to be cleaned up from a bowel movement.


Chocolate hostage

This one’s not quite as menacing as it sounds.

Amy, a nurse with six years of experience, told Business Insider that “chocolate hostage” is nurse-speak for a patient who’s suffering from constipation.


NPS

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Nurses can spot a patient suffering from NPS a mile off.

Classic symptoms include a clenched jaw, furrowed brow, and a baby wrapped in cotton wool, Glenys, a nurse with 22 years of experience, told Business Insider.

She said that patients diagnosed with NPS are showing signs of what nurses have dubbed “New Parent Syndrome” – overprotective parents who bring their newborns into hospital for displaying perfectly normal baby behaviour.


Walkie-talkie

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Gail, a nurse with 25 years of experience, told Business Insider that if a patient can walk, talk, and take care of themselves, then they’re classed as a walkie-talkie.


PITA

The word pita might make you think of hummus, but if you hear it in a hospital, it means something totally different.

Liz, a nurse with two years of experience, told Business Insider that among nurses, a PITA is a patient or family member who is a pain in the a–.


Sundowning

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As the sun sets on another day on the hospital ward, elderly patients can sometimes begin to display signs of delirium. They become confused, agitated, and act totally out of character as twilight approaches.

In the medical world, this behaviour is known as “sundowning,” Hannah, a physician’s assistant with two years of experience, told Business Insider.

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