30 Medical Slang Terms Nurses Use

medical slang

Most nurses find humor in speaking medical slang. It relieves stress and lightens up everyone’s mood. As a nurse, do you use slang at work?

Here are some of the most awesome medical slangs nurses use every day:

1. Frequent Flyer

Definition: A regular patient in the hospital who often seeks medical attention for every little health problem encountered. Frequent flyers are often drug-seekers hoping to get a taste of narcotics.  Others simply want an excuse to take a break from work.

Example: Our frequent flyer was just here a couple of weeks ago, but here he is back again today.

frequent flyers

Also Read: 20 Funniest Things Only Nurses Would Understand

2. Dyscopia

Definition: Patients or relatives having difficulty in coping.

Example: The doctor just revealed the patient’s prognosis after the operation and it’s not good. The whole family is experiencing dyscopia.



Definition: PITA literally stands for “Pain In The Ass”. It’s a code nurses use to warn their fellow nurses about an uncooperative patient or relative.

Example: The patient is very sweet but his wife is a PITA.

pain in the ass

4. Rotater

Definition: A patient whose case is so complicated that he needs to be rotated to different nurses every day to prevent staff burnout. The nursing care a rotater needs is high maintenance.

Example: I’m assigned to three patients but most of my time is dedicated to this one patient. This patient needs to be a rotater.

5. Yellow Submarine

Definition: An obese patient with jaundice. A yellow submarine usually suffers from liver cirrhosis and needs complex medical attention.

Example: As expected, it’s difficult to start an IV line to our yellow submarine in Bed 1. I can neither palpate nor visualize his veins.

6. Fits

Definition: A short medical slang for a sudden seizure attack.

Example: We were prepping her for surgery but we had to stop because she started having fits.

7. NPS

Definition: NPS stands for New Parent Syndrome. This is a code nurses use for panicky new parents who constantly bring their child in the hospital for every little health problem they see.

Example: The baby just had uncontrollable hiccups as the parents said. Surely it’s a case of NPS.

new parent syndrome

8. Pothole Sign

Definition: This term is used for cases of acute appendicitis. It refers to the severe abdominal pain the patient felt for every bump or pothole in the road encountered as they drive on the way to the hospital.

Example: The patient’s complaint is consistent with a positive pothole sign. He said the ride to the hospital was brutal.

9. Vent Jockey

Definition: Vent jockey is a respiratory therapist. The term came from the nature of their work in maintaining mechanical ventilators.

Example: The vent jockey arrived just in time as we were about to start the code.

10. Patient is High Risk

Definition: When a nurse warns a fellow nurse that their patient is high risk, the warning actually means something more. It means that the patient is positive for HIV or hepatitis so you should be extra careful in handling blood and body fluids.

Example: The patient is high risk so secure your gloves and face shield all the time.

patient is high risk


Definition: BONITA stands for “Big Old Needle In The Ass”. ER nurses use this code in giving intramuscular injections in the patient’s buttocks.

Example: The surgeon ordered a large bolus of magnesium sulfate intramuscularly. I have no choice but to give it through a BONITA as the patient’s arm is too skinny for intramuscular injection.

12. Stream Team

Definition: A team of urologists

Example: I need an order to catheterize the patient and luckily, here’s the stream team on their rounds.

13. Boyfriend

Definition: A little old man who is a simple joy to take care of. This patient is sweet and unintentionally funny.

Example: My patient is a boyfriend and makes my day less stressful.

14. Noctor

Definition: A nurse who acts like a doctor. A nurse who just came back from intensive training usually acts as a noctor of the floor.

Example: Have you seen our new noctor? She surprised our resident doctor with tons of assumptions about the patient’s diagnoses.

15. Chocolate Hostage

Definition: Chocolate hostage is another term for constipation or having difficulty in passing stools.

Example: After giving his dose of laxatives, my patient is still a chocolate hostage. I think he needs enema.

chocolate hostage

16. ECU

Definition: ECU stands for “Eternal Care Unit”. That unit doesn’t really exist as ECU means death

Example: I thought my patient was going to get transferred to the  ECU! Thank God he responded to the fourth epinephrine.

17. 45C

Definition: Person is “thick” or has questionable IQ. The term comes from the fact that if one chromosome is lacking from the supposed 46, as in the case of 45C, mental disability will kick in.

Example: Tsk, that intern is a 45C; he missed assessing the patient’s lungs.

18. Slashers and Cutters

Definition: Slashers and cutters stand for surgeons. These codes are often used when nurses want to talk about surgeons secretly.

Example: That slasher cares only about cutting. He can’t even wait for the cardiopulmonary clearance of the patient.

19. One-Point Restraint

Definition: One-point restraint is actually not a type of restraint. It stands for the insertion of a catheter into the bladder. It also serves as an unintentional restraint since a patient will have limited mobility once a urinary catheter is inserted.

Example: I had to stick a one-point restraint on our patient to better monitor his urine output.

one-point restraint

20. Snorkel

Definition: Due to resemblance, an endotracheal breathing tube is also called snorkel by nurses. It’s easier to say it especially during quick reports or conversations.

Example: We started weaning the patient off the ventilator so we could remove the snorkel.

Also Read: “Say What?!” The Funniest Medical Terms Used by Clueless Patients

21. Happy Juice

Definition: This is a cocktail of narcotics given pre-operatively or for painful cases of terminal cancer.

Example: The happy juice I gave the patient sure knocked him unconscious just in time before the cut-down.

happy juice

22. Trainwreck

Definition: A patient with lots of health problems and diagnoses unfit for the medical-surgical floor but doesn’t qualify for ICU until he arrests in the middle of the night.

Example: The new admission is a trainwreck. You better prepare yourself for a rough night.

23. Code Brown

Definition: Code Brown is a call to clean up a patient from his own stools.

Example: Can you help me with my patient? I’m having a code brown in room 214. The patient’s diaper is a mess after he took his laxatives earlier this morning.

code brown

Also Read: 250 Funniest Nursing Quotes and Ecards

24. Status Dramaticus

Definition: Patients who demonstrate their symptoms more dramatically in hopes of getting quicker medical attention.

Example: Be careful with the patient in bed 6. He’s a bad case of status dramaticus. He thought he will get his wound dressing done quicker by crying out louder.

status dramaticus

25. Chart Dehiscence

Definition: Chart dehiscence happens when a patient chart falls and its contents fall out of place.

Example: This is my third chart dehiscence for the night! I’ll have to sort all this out and I’m already running late!

chart dehiscence

26. Whiney Primey

Definition: This is a code nurses use to describe a first-time mother-to-be who goes to the hospital over and over, thinking she’s already in labor.

Example: Here’s the whiney primey again.

27. Bungee Jumper

Definition: It’s a code for a patient who keeps on pulling his catheter tube.

Example: That patient is a bungee jumper. He needs to get a new catheter.

28. Bloodsuckers

Definition: This term refers to those who routinely take blood samples, like phlebotomists and laboratory technicians.

Example: Have you seen the bloodsuckers in the unit?

29. Hasselhoff

Definition: Patients who come to the emergency room with injuries that are just bizarre. It came from David Hasselhoff which is a Baywatch actor. He went to the hospital with a severed artery in his arm and four tendons after getting hit by a chandelier while he’s shaving.

Example: Are you done assessing the Hasselhoff?

30. Goldbrick

Definition: This code refers to patients who persistently demands more attention that what their condition actually requires.

Example: The Goldbrick is demanding to see the doctor again.

Do you know more medical slang terms you commonly use at work? There are lots of medical slangs being invented by nurses every day. These slangs make conversations at work lighter and a little less stressful. Share more medical slangs you know in the comments below.