Top 40 Slang Terms Nurses Use

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.

If you’ve ever treated a “frequent flyer” patient with a case of “Nintendo thumb” or “Avatar blues,” you may be familiar with this list of 40 humorous nursing lingo terms.


Definition: Pain in the as$

Usage: The patient’s whiny girlfriend is such a PITA!


Definition: Broke all to sh*t.

Usage: That poor kid has a BATS fracture from falling out of a tree.


Definition: “Fluff my pillow” syndrome. A demanding patient that acts sicker than they really are.

Usage: Watch out for room 304; she’s got a real case of FMPS.

4. CAH

Definition: Crazy as hell.

Usage: The patient is sweet, but I’m diagnosing his mother with CAH.

5. FTF

Definition: Failure to fly. Usually used in cases of head bumps, but can be used to describe various traumas.

Usage: She broke her leg jumping off the roof–I’m diagnosing it as a FTF.

6. Rotater

Definition: A patient so complex or high maintenance that they have to be rotated to a different nurse each day to prevent staff burnout.

Usage: She uses the call button so often that she’s going to be a rotater!

7. Dr. Too Long

Definition: A nurse’s message for a physician who is tied up with a very long-winded patient and can’t escape.

Usage: Excuse me, Doctor? Dr. Too Long needs to speak with you immediately!

8. Jack in the Box

Definition: A patient who can’t stand or walk yet insists on trying.


Definition: An acronym used in the ER which stands for ‘Fall Down Go Boom.’

10. F/U

Definition: A shortened version of ‘Follow Up.’

Fun (and cautionary) fact: The contributor of this term actually got in trouble by the state surveyor for using it in his charting!

11. Crispies

Definition: A patient who is a tanning booth victim.

12. Trainwreck

Definition: A patient with multiple health problems and multiple diagnoses that has no business on a med-surg floor but doesn’t “qualify” for ICU until they code in the middle of the night.

13. The Whine Line

Definition: A term used among prison nurses referring to inmates who suddenly need to see medical because it’s raining and they don’t want to go to work. In the hospital they are the uninsured that show up in the ER at 0200 with sniffles, etc.
Usage: It’s cold and rainy out there. Gonna have a whine line this morning.

14. Malibu Barbie School of Medicine

Definition: Where the resident doctors who wear six inch heels, short skirts, and acrylic nail tips attended medical school.

15. Lantern Test

Definition: To shine a pen light in a patient’s mouth and see their eyes light up (i.e. they have no brain).
Usage: She thought Smucker’s could be used as contraceptive jelly. I think she’d fail the lantern test.

16. Young Invincibles

Definition: A term used by the healthcare industry along with the government to describe the growing population of uninsured twenty-somethings. This group is considered to be among the healthiest. There are many reasons why these young adults lack insurance: They’re no longer on their parents’ plan, they have jobs that don’t offer employer-based coverage, etc. Of the ones who do have insurance, many will decline either because of financial reasons or simply a feeling of being “invincible,” so it’s not a priority. This growing population of uninsured young adults is a concern of the United States Senate Committee on Finance and measures are being undertaken to address this problem.

Every year, more and more of our new employees are refusing our health insurance. These young invincibles will have to learn the hard way!

Synonyms: invincibles

17. Nintendo Thumb

Definition: A video game-related health problem classified as a form of repetitive strain injury (RSI). The symptoms are the blistering, paraesthesia and swelling of the thumbs, mainly through use of the directional pad, though any finger can be affected. This can lead to stress on tendons, nerves and ligaments in the hands, and further onto lateral epicondylitis (“tennis elbow”), tendinitis, bursitis and carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).

Usage: Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A. Ow! I think I have Nintendo thumb.

Synonyms: gamer’s grip, Nintenditis, PlayStation thumb

18. Another One Bites The Dust

Definition: A 1980s funk-rock song by Queen with a tempo that approximates the proper interval between CPR chest compressions when hummed in your head.

Usage: Jane: Am I performing the chest compressions too quickly?” Tammy: “Ever heard the 1980s smash hit ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ by Queen? Just hum that tune, do your compressions in step with the song’s tempo and you’ll be fine.”

Synonyms: staying alive

19. Professional Patient

Definition: A person who feigns illnesses for various reasons. PPs often include malingerers filling a psychological need, drug runners seeking prescriptions or drugs to be sold later, and those with Munchausen syndrome.

Usage: Man, this guy’s definitely a professional patient. As soon as we offered morphine, he quickly said it made him sick and asked for Dilaudid.

20. Pumpkin Positive

Definition: The notion that a patient’s brain is so small that shining a penlight into her mouth will result in her empty head glowing like a Halloween pumpkin.

Usage: Well, I just had a patient admit to using Smucker’s as contraceptive jelly. Needless to say she’s pumpkin positive.

Synonyms: dumb, stupid, dolt, idiot, moron

21. Avatar Blues

Definition: The depression experienced by a select few people after having viewed James Cameron’s 2009 box office hit movie Avatar. The movie depicts an idyllic world with a tight-knit tribe of aliens battling to save their planet from human invaders. Themes in the movie include analogs to modern-day problems like global warming, war and capitalism, threaded together with a love story. The movie’s most prevalent feature is its cinematic effects, particularly 3-D.

Viewers leaving the theaters have been said to reflect on their current life or how authentically it paralleled the destruction of our own earth, and a helpless feeling.

CNN was the first to report this phenomenon, and it is disputed whether this is a true clinical problem or glorified reporting.

Usage: Person 1: Jack’s not coming out with us tonight—what’s going on? Person 2: He fell victim to the Avatar blues. Same thing happened to him in 1977…but that could have just been his struggle with puberty.

22. Botox Raton

Definition: City in Florida that used to be called “Boca Raton,” but they changed the name for obvious reasons.

Usage: Halfway between Palm Beach and Miami, there’s Botox Raton.

23. Fits

Definition: Sudden attack or seizure of muscle activity.

Usage: We were watching The Biggest Loser on TV and she just started having fits.

24. Fighting Darwin

Definition: A patient is fighting Darwin if he or she refuses essential treatment through stubbornness or stupidity.

Usage: She’s refusing all medical care because it’s the Sabbath. Boy, she’s really fighting Darwin.

25. Chart Dehiscence

Definition: When a patient’s chart is dropped and everything falls out.

Usage: Oh! Not again! Second chart dehiscence of the night!

26. Pack-Years

Definition: A crude indicator of a person’s cumulative cigarette consumption, equal to the number of packs of cigarettes smoked/day multiplied by years of consumption.

Usage: We should really measure his consumption in pack-years. It’s probably close to 150.

27. Jimmy Leg

Definition: An uncontrollable shake or tremor of the leg.

Usage: I couldn’t fall asleep next to her, dude she’s got the jimmy legs.

Synonyms: jimmy legs, the shakes

28. Baci

Definition: Bacitracin. An antibiotic used in wound irrigation operatively. Pronounced bass-e (basslike the fish).

Usage: Tech to relief tech: “This has baci in it.”

Synonyms: bacitracin

29. Band-Aid hospital

Definition: A popular term for a healthcare facility that provides for minimal care of significance.

Usage: I was hoping to get a job at a Level I trauma center, not at a Band-Aid hospital. I guess you don’t always get what you want. I learned that from the Rolling Stones.

30. Noctor

Definition: The nurse who just came off of a six-week training course and acts as though she is a doctor.

Usage: What’s with the new noctor on the floor? Can you believe she had to gall to demand the patient with the Swan?

31. Pharm Party

Definition: Where kids get together to share drugs pilfered from their parents’ pill bottles. Painkillers such as Percocet, Vicodin, OxyContin and other similar drugs are preferred for their “feel good” and numbing effect. Alcohol is routinely combined while taking the drugs.

There have been reports of kids openly sharing the pills in one communal bowl with no identifying information about the drug; sometimes the drugs are presented mixed together in a bag they call “trail mix.”

Some experts argue there is a lack of substantive data to label this as a phenomenon or a growing problem, and is more likely something sensationalized by media, law enforcement and educators.

Usage: Person 1: What do you guys want to do tonight? Person 2: Pharm party at Andy’s. I’m trying to get some of my brother’s OxyContin.

Synonyms: pharma party, pharming party, pill party

32. Pothole Sign

Definition: A clinical sign of acute appendicitis, referring to the severe pain evoked by every bump (or pothole) in the road felt on the drive to the hospital.

Usage: Yeah, he was positive for the pothole sign—said the ride in was brutal.

33. Negative Wallet Biopsy

Definition: When a patient is transferred to a cheaper, less intensive hospital after discovering he has no health insurance.

Usage: Yeah, the negative wallet biopsy meant he was going to King-Harbor. Welcome to healthcare in America.

34. Black Vomit

Definition: Vomit from old black blood due to ulcers or yellow fever.

Usage: I saw the black vomit and I knew she was in trouble.

Synonyms: xekik

35. Silent Killer

Definition: A slang term for a condition that can progress to very advanced stages before manifesting itself clinically.

Usage: They say that obesity is the silent killer, but I’d say that it’s really all the heroin that he’s been doing for the past 10 years.

36. Fluid Overload

Definition: Hypervolemia. It’s the medical condition where there is too much fluid in the blood. This fluid, primarily salt and water, builds up in various locations in the body and leads to an increase in weight, swelling in the legs and arms (peripheral edema), and/or fluid in the abdomen (ascites). Eventually, the fluid enters the air spaces in the lungs, reduces the amount of oxygen that can enter the blood and causes shortness of breath (dyspnea). Fluid can also collect in the lungs when lying down at night, possibly making nighttime breathing and sleeping difficult (paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea).

Usage: I’m a little worried that we may run the risk of fluid overload if we perform the surgery.

Synonyms: hypervolemia

37. Medical Futility

Definition: Either a judgment that further medical treatment of a patient would have no useful result or a medical treatment whose success is possible although reasoning and experience suggest that it’s highly improbable.

Usage: What do I think? Medical futility.

38. The Patient Is High Risk

Definition: The patient has HIV, Aids, or Hepatitis, so be aware.

Usage: Be sure to wear eye protection, the patient is high risk.

39. Questionable Doctor

Definition: A physician who has been sanctioned for serious state and federal offenses and placed on a list by the Public Citizen’s Health Research Group.

Usage: Umm, he’s a questionable doctor. He’s been sanctioned for handing out painkillers like Tic Tacs.

Synonyms: impaired physician

40. Frequent Flyer

Definition: One who visits healthcare providers, emergency departments, etc. for every little health problem, often drug seeking or wanting work excuses.

This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine (top terms courtesy of Scrubs magazine readers and


  1. What does it mean when a nurse at a nurses station says that “the husband is running loose in the patients room”??

  2. “No friends at 5 (am or pm), when you’re looking for a buddy for to help you for a ‘second’.
    NLG – not looking good.

  3. Been a nurse for many years. With the possibility of being overheard, recorded or worse yet, charting any of these, places your career and license at risk. There is no explaining-your-way out of these.

  4. When I was in school 1980’s, the abbreviation SOB meant Shortness of Breath. It wasn’t slang but it seems to have been eliminated. I’m retired now.

  5. The art of being a nurse is so stressful, a bit of fun is so necessary. Learning the slang can always cause a smile… Graduated 1969 and just retired.. Need I say more. My favorite is SNAFU… You figure it out…

  6. FUB found under bridge or bumsicle for the people found dead and cold but before pronouncing them dead we must warm them.

  7. Don’t forget GOMER—“get out of my emergency room” from the book House of God. One qualification is GOMERs always go to ground (turn your back and they’ll fall down and hurt themselves).

  8. Mae West: female dementia patient who walks down the hall naked.
    Magic Mike: same as above, but make
    Hannibal Lecter: patient who bites

  9. FLK Stands for funny looking kid. Pediatricians use to write this in their notes after examining a newborn baby that was just ugly!

  10. I’m an old nurse. We used to give “pta” baths, “pussy tits and ass, i.e. Quick sponge baths. Also . Ordered this way by doctors, “HHH” or “triple h enemas, high hit and hell if a lot. From the 60’s and 70’s.

  11. GORK- God Only Really Knows: this may sound a bit insensitive but to older NICU/PICU nurses this was a term applied when severe anoxia occurs in pediatric patients and significant co morbidities developed

  12. DIB – dead in bed. Refers to a critically ill patient, vented, often on multiple pressors, unresponsive without sedation, and possibly with anoxic encephalopathy. Usually about 300 years old, and a full code.

  13. FUBAR- f**ked up beyond all repair
    FOS- full of $hit- literally. This is for someone complaining of 10/10 stomach pain and X-ray reveals constipation
    TFB- too fat to breathe

  14. I found my nurses putting alerts in electronic charts that we could not have….it is good to communicate that you might need to spend extra time with this patient, or that no matter how much you talk it is not going to be understood, or no matter what anyone does it will not work so don’t waste your breath…they have a medical degree even though they went to 8th grade……that was too much to type, BUT you do want the next nurse to have some idea or if I am that next nurse I want to be warned……but…..but TIC was not it…..Totally Insane Client. I told them I get it, but its rather unprofessional. I think….oh….extra time needed might be a better alert.

  15. Nursesat our hospital must do bedside report, in front of the patient… This can be problematic if the patient is crazy… So BEDSIDE COMMODE is BSC… But with a roll of eyes can mean Batshit Crazy.


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