Inappropriate Medical Abbreviations


4.5 out of 5 (85 Reviews)



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Expiration Date

31 Dec 2025

Last Reviewed

1 Jan 2023

Estimated Time To Finish

60 Minutes

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Activity Description

Use of medical abbreviations in medicine is not new. Since the development of mainstream medicine nearly 200 years ago, abbreviations have been used. While initially, the abbreviations were limited to the writing of prescriptions, today, abbreviations have become very common in all aspects of medical documentation. Medical abbreviations are used in all medical and surgical departments, during surgery, the emergency room, and at discharge. One area where medical abbreviations are used most often and are a cause for concern is when writing drug orders. Until recently, the use of abbreviations has never been regulated, and there is no universal rule as to which abbreviations can be used and which ones cannot. In fact, over the past 3 decades, some healthcare workers have been making up abbreviations. The long-standing practice of writing medical abbreviation has become so entrenched in healthcare that even the most junior medical and nursing school graduates are very accustomed to writing them. In fact, many healthcare institutions have specialized lists of abbreviations that can be used. Now, with a more formalized practice of medicine, there is a concern that rampant use of medical abbreviations may pose a danger to the patient. While there are anecdotal examples of medical abbreviations that have caused harm to a few patients, good clinical evidence to support the belief that medical abbreviation use is dangerous or is causing problems in the delivery of standard of care is lacking. In any case, the potential for harm to the patient from improper communication as a result of medical abbreviations cannot be understated. This activity reviews the inappropriate use of medical abbreviations and discusses the role of the interprofessional team in avoiding acting on orders that are unclear due to the use of an abbreviation.

Target Audience

This activity has been designed to meet the educational needs of individuals in nursing.

Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this activity, the learner will be better able to:

  • Describe the errors reported by the ISMP and Joint Commission related to inappropriate medical abbreviations.
  • Outline methods to avoid acting on inappropriate and unclear medical abbreviations.
  • Identify examples of potential harm that can result from inappropriate medical abbreviations.
  • Summarize the inappropriate use of medical abbreviations and highlight the role of the interprofessional team in avoiding acting on orders that are unclear due to the use of an abbreviation.


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COMMERCIAL SUPPORT: This activity has received NO commercial support.


Continuing Education Accreditation Information

Credit provided by Continuing Education, Inc, and StatPearls, LLC.

In support of improving patient care, this activity has been jointly planned and implemented by Continuing Education, Inc./University at Sea® and StatPearls, LLC. Continuing Education, Inc, is jointly accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), to provide continuing education for the healthcare team.

This activity is designated for 1.00 ANCC contact hours.


Instructions for Credit

  1. Register for the activity and create a StatPearls login.     
  2. Review the target audience, learning objectives, and disclosure information.
  3. Study the educational content in the activity.
  4. Choose the best answer to each activity test question. To receive credit, you must pass the test questions with a minimum score of 100%.
  5. Complete the post-activity assessment.
  6. Obtain a certificate.

For information on applicability and acceptance of continuing education credit for this activity, please consult your professional licensing board.


Faculty may discuss investigational products or off-label uses of products regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration. Readers should verify all information before employing any therapies described in this educational activity.

The information provided for this activity is for continuing education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical/clinical judgment of a healthcare provider relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient’s medical condition. The information presented does not necessarily reflect the views of StatPearls or any commercial supporters of educational activities on StatPearls specifically disclaims responsibility for any adverse consequences resulting directly or indirectly from information in the course, for undetected error, or through a participant's misunderstanding of the content.

Cancellation Policy: Cancellations must be received in writing and a money-back guarantee is provided if not completely satisfied.

  • StatPearlsand and Continuing Education, Inc, reserve the right to cancel any course due to unforeseen circumstances. StatPearls and Continuing Education, Inc, will not be responsible for other expenses incurred by the participant in the unlikely event that the program is canceled.

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  • Computer Requirements: Internet Access
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The contributors and editors of StatPearls have attested that all associated media (images and video) have been legally cleared for use with this activity.  All copyrights are reserved.

  • Name: 'dnu_list.png' Attribution: Image from Joint Commission


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Need more real life examples

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Very helpful information

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