Jargon Watch: The Secret World Of Medical Slang

Or, how to tell what doctors and nurses really think of you … and each other.
March 22, 2019
Jargon Watch: The Secret World Of Medical Slang

In a highly technical, scientific field like medicine, there are thousands upon thousands of jargon words for equipment, medical conditions, procedures and more. And unless you’re interested in this line of work, your eyes would probably glaze over if we simply listed true medical jargon. So instead, we’ve compiled some of the semi-secret and often hilarious medical slang terms doctors and nurses use to talk about patients, each other and the daily grind of their jobs.

When you work in stressful conditions and high stakes situations like those of a hospital, you need an outlet for frustration, as well as a quicker way to discuss common topics of conversation. To some extent, these slang terms may be falling out of use or are being switched out as they appear in pop culture and the media and are no longer a secret. Either way, here’s a list of 15 medical slang terms that are good to know. Or at the very least, they’ll make you chuckle.

An Abridged Guide To Medical Slang

Bloodsuckers — medical workers who regularly take blood samples

Chocolate hostage — a patient who is constipated

Clinic unit — a way to covertly discuss a patient’s weight (1 clinic unit = 200 pounds)

DOMA — (stands for “Day Off, My Ass”) when residents are given a “day off” but can’t leave work until noon and have to come back the “next day,” which is a few hours later

ECU — (stands for “Eternal Care Unit”) a euphemism for death; i.e. “My patient was transferred to the ECU”

Frequent flyer — a patient who visits the ER regularly for minor health problems

Hollywood code — calls for a fake resuscitation for a patient with no hope of being saved, usually for the benefit of loved ones

Incarceritis — a prisoner who fakes an illness so they get sent to the hospital

PITA — (stands for “Pain In The Ass”) a warning to other nurses that a patient or relative is particularly uncooperative

Status dramaticus — a fake Latin term for patients anxious patients who believe they are extremely ill or dying when they’re not; a play on status asthmaticus, a severe asthma attack that doesn’t respond to usual treatment

Stream team — a team of urologists

To cheech — to order every possible test in order to diagnose an illness

Weekend syndrome — when doctors filling in for colleagues on the weekend refuse to make any major medical decisions

Whiney primey — a first-time mother-to-be who repeatedly comes to the hospital, thinking she’s in labor when she’s not

Zebra — an extremely rare diagnosis, usually made my internists who might overlook more routine illnesses

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Author Headshot
Dylan Lyons
Dylan is a senior content producer, overseeing video and podcast projects for the U.S. team. He studied journalism at Ithaca College and previously managed social media for CBS News. He’s currently pursuing his MBA part-time at NYU Stern. His interests include podcasts, puppies, politics, alliteration, reading, writing, and dessert. Dylan lives in New York City.
Dylan is a senior content producer, overseeing video and podcast projects for the U.S. team. He studied journalism at Ithaca College and previously managed social media for CBS News. He’s currently pursuing his MBA part-time at NYU Stern. His interests include podcasts, puppies, politics, alliteration, reading, writing, and dessert. Dylan lives in New York City.

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