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February 2019

Dictionary appeals for ‘words at work’ entries

]The Oxford English Dictionary has launched an appeal for contributions of words used at work that may be familiar to you as nurses but be a mystery to the general public.

While the majority of us understand what it means to ‘hot desk’, and are familiar with terms such as ‘you’re nicked’ or ‘code blue’ there are vast numbers of words and phrases used by people at work that lead to blank looks from outsiders, with slang being especially hard to understand – which sometimes is the whole point.

The OED says: ‘Doctors may not want people to understand what they mean when they describe someone as a GOMER*, and vets may shy away from explaining DSTO (our sources tell us this means “dog smarter than owner”). But at other times, not understanding the words used can lead to total confusion.

‘The OED already includes many terms from all kinds of professions but many more have not yet come to our attention – and that’s why we’re asking for your help.’

The use of slang terms in patients’ notes has been actively discouraged – particularly since patients were given the right to view their records, and the use of derogatory terms (NFN, Normal for Norfolk; FLK, Funny looking kid) is considered unethical.

If you have any quirky terms that are peculiar to practice nursing do share them with the OED (and Practice Nurse). Words can be submitted via an online submissions form, available at or using the hashtag #wordsatwork.

*GOMER – Get Out of My Emergency Room – usually applied to a disagreeable patient who does not need medical care.