Years and years ago, at some point in the 1990s I was a very quiet student nurse, mostly scared of everything and everyone and the bane of my life were abbreviations! I recall one handover when the entire time all the qualified nurses talked about were cabbages, I came out very bewildered but eventually plucked up the courage to ask a fellow student nurse what on earth they were all talking about … of course they meant Coronary Artery Bypass Grafts aka CABG. The incident stuck in my mind and had a lasting impression on me, to the extent that to this day I try not to use abbreviations in my clinical practice and always challenge them when I see them.
There have been a few incidents of late when I have been totally bamboozled and befuddled by abbreviations….. first up by my teenager who sent me a text saying “k” … to my knowledge this is not, nor ever has been a word …. it’s a letter ! Apparently “k” is short for “ok” … because typing two letters is so time consuming ! Second up has been the abbreviations that have popped up due to covid & I found myself challenging someone the other day who was talking about an IMT meeting … which turned out to be an Incident Management Team meeting, but no one seemed to know what IMT stood for !
So what’s the point – or WTP – I hear you ask … well point is the way that abbreviations make people feel. In all of the examples above I have to admit to feeling lost, not part of the club (though have to admit to not being sure if I want to be part of the teenagers club!) and a bit foolish for not knowing what the abbreviations stood for.
Putting the teenager example to one side the given that abbreviations make our colleagues, fellow nurses, wider teams and even patients feel excluded why do they still persist in our nursing language ? Well the fact of the matter is that there are times when abbreviations are useful … take MRSA (not literally of course!) if we had to say Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus every time we would never get anything done ! Instead, perhaps, we should pay more heed to our use of abbreviations by knowing what it is we are abbreviating and not just blindly following and being more aware of confused faces…. and please, please let’s stop abbreviating ok !!!!
(NB the last part of this email is aimed at my teenager)