Medical terms and abbreviations

Medical bagOn one of my first days working as a medical librarian at St. Charles Health System (Oregon), I received the following instructions:

Please, can you check out a TNCC and an NRP book for Kayla? She is an RN in Prineville. If we don’t have any copy available, call CPPD and ask if they do.

TNCC? NRP? RN? CPPD? This is not going to be easy, I thought. Before I could start figuring out what all those abbreviations meant, the email software chimed to let me know I had a new message. The subject line terrified me:


My eyes rolled, and I felt I was about to faint. I had never worked in health care before, and I knew I would need to learn many new terms and abbreviations, but it all seemed too much for an early morning during my first week there.

After I caught my breath, I did some research and came up with the following key:

  • TNCC: Trauma Nursing Core Course
  • NRP: Neonatal Resuscitation Program
  • RN: Registered Nurse
  • CPPD: Clinical Practice and Professional Development
  • RQI: Resuscitation Quality Improvement
  • BLS: Basic Life Support
  • ACLS: Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support
  • PALS: Pediatric Advanced Life Support

There are plenty of abbreviations related to health care. The medical field is full of complex concepts precisely referenced in a single word using prefixes, roots, and suffixes (or, of course, PRS). Examples would be anesthesia (an: without; esthes: sensation) or phlebitis (phlebo: blood, vein; itis: inflammation).

Fortunately, I found a good course on the topic that’s helping me decipher some of the words I come across daily. It’s from the University of Pittsburg and available for free on Coursera: Clinical Terminology for International and US students

If you are interested in learning more about medical terminology, here are a few other resources: 

These are some that I found useful, but of course there are hundreds of others!

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About Javier Leiva

Medical Librarian a St. Charles Health System i STEAM Manager a Camp Fire Central Oregon, tots dos a Bend (Oregon, EUA). Anteriorment he treballat durant dues etapes a la UVic-UCC, primer com a professor i després al projecte Diversity.
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