Every field has inside jokes and shares a shorthand slang. The medical field is no exception. Many of them stem from the dark humor that is a coping mechanism. They might sound harsh, but it helps us get through the tough calls. While there are some terms that I won’t reveal (for everyone’s benefit, trust me, some are pretty harsh) here are a few that I hear a lot:
Circling the Drain (CTD) – a patient who is in severely declining health and close to death; some patients can do this for weeks, some for hours. Palliative care.
Frequent Flyer – a patient whose medical history you know by heart because you see them so often; often these are the homeless, drug seekers, alcoholics, or chronically ill.
DK – a way of saying “drunk” in front of the patient or bystanders without being totally obvious; you have to be careful though, because sometimes a frequent flyer DK also has a medical emergency that might get overlooked if EMS is complacent.
Acute Lead Poisoning – gunshot wound
Code Brown – fecal incontinence, AKA covered in poo (meaning that as an EMT you will probably get contaminated. Whoopie.)
M&Ms – Morbidity and Mortality sessions where caregivers discuss patient deaths and potential errors in care; quality control.
Roach – a patient with polysubstance abuse and a horrible, long, complicated medical history who just doesn’t die.
Push the Diesel or Vitamin D – drive FAST! It’s a play on the term “pushing meds” via an IV.
White Cloud – caregiver who gets easy patients all shift
Black Cloud – caregiver who gets difficult patients all shift, often with a high complication and/or mortality rate
Zebra – an unusual case, from the expression “When you hear hoof beats, think horses not zebras.”
Smurf – a patient who is turning blue from lack of oxygen
TMB – a diagnosis associated with elderly patients who are falling apart: “Too Many Birthdays.” This is the bread & butter of EMS.
Whacker – EMTs or Paramedics who live and breathe emergency medicine, go to M&M rounds for fun, love the blood & guts calls, work up to 100 hours a week, and read & research EM in their free time. I am not a whacker, even though I like my job.
What other terms have you heard?
Do you ever wonder what the hell they’re talking about on medical shows?
Medical professionals: what am I missing?