Why Are Medical Abbreviations Important to Doctors and Nurses?

Medical abbreviations are important to doctors and nurses primarily because they expedite the process of completing documentation. Medical abbreviations also help doctors and nurses distinguish among certain diseases and conditions that might sound alike, and help them properly identify each condition in writing. Abbreviations in the field of medicine, like other disciplines, follow several rules of formatting and punctuation to ensure uniformity.

In the field of medicine, abbreviations expedite the process of physicians and nurses completing paperwork, which ultimately translates to a more efficient workflow. A set of rules, called orthographic styling, establishes a framework to help doctors and nurses properly write abbreviations and codes.

Orthographic styling uses several core elements, which are periods, plurals and possessives. Once used frequently, many physicians and nurses now forego the use of periods in abbreviating medical conditions, which makes them more readable. The exception is older abbreviations that historically contained periods, such as Latin words.

When using plurals in the medical field, writers generally distinguish between singular and plural objects by adding a lowercase "s" to the end of the latter, without an apostrophe. When using possessives, medical experts write the abbreviation, then add an apostrophe and an "s."

As with other fields of writing, several conventions exist in medical abbreviations. Periods do not appear in acronyms and initials, and the singular rather than plural of an abbreviation appears as the headword. Lastly, physicians generously capitalize headwords.