Failing through Abbreviations

Have you ever listened to a conversation between two experienced medical professionals and thought, “What the heck are they talking about?!?!”  With all the jargon, medical terminology, and especially acronyms, talking about healthcare can sometimes sound like one big bowl of alphabet soup.  Whether it’s referencing a medication (i.e. MAOI, TCA, SSRI), or a medical condition (COPD, TB), or even a procedure (i.e. CABG, BP), it can be really overwhelming for nursing students.  Especially if you don’t have much (or any!) previous experience in health care, like I didn’t when I started nursing school.

Luckily, there’s an easy and straightforward way to stop the confusion.  Plus, this method will ALSO help you on your exams!  All you’ve got to do islearn exactly what the acronym stands for.  I know, I know, it’s not a mind-blowing trick or anything, but trust me…it’s worth it!  And in my years of tutoring, I find that many nursing students overlook this simple step to improving their nursing knowledge.  Let me tell you why it works so well.

Most medical acronyms tell you nothing about the thing that they are describing.  But if you know what the acronym stands for, then that full title usually WILL tell you exactly what it is plus it sometimes also tells you how it works, especially when it comes to medications!  Let me give you an example.

If you see the acronym “CABG” (usually pronounced as “cabbage” by most medical people), then you really have to rely on your memory to know what it is.  But if you have memorized that:

CABG = Coronary Artery Bypass Graft

Then suddenly you can know that it’s a procedure dealing with the heart (coronary), and involves going around (bypass) an arterey by using a graft.  Much easier to figure out, and much easier to answer a test question involving CABG when you have all that additional information in your head that you can use.

So the next time you hear or read an acronym that you don’t recognize, jot it down and make sure to look it up during your study time.  If you can’t find it in your textbook, then you can always ask Google, too.

If you make it a habit to memorize not just the acronym, but also what the acronym stands for, then you’ll find it much easier to understand and retain information about that topic for the long-term.

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