Current Content
Volume 33, Number 5
September/October 2007

Continuing Nursing Education
Abbreviations and Acronyms in Healthcare: When Shorter Isn’t Sweeter
Ivy Fenton Kuhn

The use of abbreviations and acronyms in healthcare has become an international patient safety issue. Common problems include ambiguous, unfamiliar, and look-alike abbreviations and acronyms leading to misinterpretation and medical errors. The Joint Commission mandated the implementation of its "do not use" list in 2004 prohibiting the use of a minimum number of abbreviations. The Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) has been a champion in the drive to warn both the healthcare community and the public. The problem continues as institutions attempt to comply and ensure patient safety by various strategies including education, enforcement, and leadership. The scope of the problem is far greater than the list provides for; the solutions have not been elucidated by the literature and implementation challenges have yet to be conquered. Recommendations for best practice and implementation are included.