Inappropriate Medical Abbreviations


4.5 out of 5 (105 Reviews)



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Start Date

1 Sep 2023

Last Review Date

1 Sep 2023

Expiration Date

31 Aug 2026

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 physicians, physician associates, nurses, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, dentists, and social workers.

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.


StatPearls, LLC requires everyone who influences the content of an educational activity to disclose relevant financial relationships with ineligible companies that have occurred within the past 24 months. Ineligible companies are organizations whose primary business is producing, marketing, selling, re-selling, or distributing healthcare products used by or on patients. All relevant conflict(s) of interest have been mitigated. Hover over contributor names for financial disclosures. Others involved in planning this educational activity have no relevant financial relationships to disclose.

Commercial Support: This activity has received NO commercial support.

Continuing Education Accreditation Information

In support of improving patient care, StatPearls, LLC 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.

As a Jointly Accredited Organization, StatPearls, LLC is approved to offer social work continuing education by the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) Approved Continuing Education (ACE) program. Organizations, not individual courses, are approved under this program. State and provincial regulatory boards have the final authority to determine whether an individual course may be accepted for continuing education credit. StatPearls, LLC maintains responsibility for this course. Social workers completing this course receive 1.00 continuing education credits.

Social Workers: StatPearls, LLC designates this continuing education activity for 1.00 ASWB ACE credit(s) for social workers. Social Workers should only claim credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Please consult your professional licensing board for information on the applicability and acceptance of continuing education credit for this activity.

Method of Participation and Credit

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

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This educational activity was planned and produced in accordance with the ACCME Standards for Integrity and Independence in Accredited Continuing Education. Faculty may discuss investigational products or off-label uses of products regulated by the FDA. 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 expressly 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.

Unapproved Uses of Drugs/Devices: In accordance with FDA requirements, the audience is advised that information presented in this continuing education activity may contain references to unlabeled or unapproved uses of drugs or devices. Please refer to the FDA-approved package insert for each drug/device for full prescribing/utilization information.

Cancellation Policy: Please see the cancellation policy. StatPearls, LLC reserves the right to cancel any course due to unforeseen circumstances.




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