How Impressive Is Your Nursing Vocabulary?


By: Laura DeFazio

6 Min Quiz

Image: SDI Productions / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Although doctors take the lead when it comes to performing surgeries and making diagnoses, nurses are absolutely essential to patient care and the proper functioning of hospitals and clinics. 

Various types of nurses are involved in every branch of medicine imaginable. There are pediatric nurses, geriatric nurses and oncology nurses. Some nurses travel from home to home, providing care and other nurses travel the world, offering their services in far-flung locations. Nurses perform life-saving procedures in emergency rooms and operating rooms. Some receive specific training to work with radiology, dialysis or mental health patients. Different types of nursing require different levels of education.

All nurses must have extensive knowledge of different diseases, disorders and medical conditions. They must be able to recognize signs and symptoms of these conditions, and they must be able to perform various tests, procedures and injections accurately, or else a patient's life might be endangered. Every job can get stressful at times, but nursing is particularly fast-paced, and there's a lot at stake when mistakes are made.

Between all the medical tools, procedures, disease names, body parts and organic processes, medical jargon can sound like a language unto itself and one wrought with dense scientific terminology. How well can you understand it? Scroll down and see. You might want to check your vital signs first ...

Who does a neonatal nurse care for?

Neonatal nurses are primarily responsible for caring for newborns with diseases, congenital disabilities, or other life-threating problems. Premature babies often end up in the NICU, or the neonatal intensive care unit.


Do you know what BMI stands for?

BMI, or body mass index, is used by nurses, doctors and other medical professionals to evaluate a patient's body fat based on height and weight. It's a good indicator of certain aspects of overall health and can be used to predict future risks.


If a patient reports having amnesia, what are they referring to?

Amnesia can range from mild to severe, and from temporary to permanent. Some causes include head injuries, emotionally traumatic events, drugs, alcohol or conditions such as Alzheimer's disease. If a patient has anterograde amnesia, they can't learn anything new, whereas if they have retrograde amnesia, they can't remember past occurrences.


This syndrome, characterized by a loss of mental capacity, affects many elderly people. Can you name it?

Dementia is a symptom of Alzheimer's disease, a disease that is as of now incurable. Other forms of dementia (such as those caused by drug/alcohol use or metabolic disorders) can sometimes be reversed.


This type of surgery delivers a baby by taking it out of the mother's abdomen. What is it called?

A Cesarian section, called a C-section for short, occurs when a baby is delivered through an incision in the abdomen. C-sections are performed in cases where the infant or mother's safety is at risk, including prolapsed umbilical cords or severe bleeding.


A tumor that is cancer-free is called:

A cancer-free tumor is "benign," a word that is commonly used in the English language as a synonym for harmless or innocent. A cancerous tumor is referred to as malignant, and a disease (cancer or otherwise) that's fatal is called terminal. On an unrelated medical note, "anemic" refers to someone with an iron deficiency.


Nurses will often use sphygmomanometers over the course of a day's work. What is this?

A sphygmomanometer is a blood pressure monitor, also known as a blood pressure gauge or a blood pressure meter. They can be digital or manual. Manual sphygmomanometers are used together with stethoscopes.


This chronic intestinal disease can cause rectal bleeding, diarrhea and fever. Can you name it?

Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that can cause abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and weight loss in addition to the symptoms listed above. There is no known cure, but treatment can significantly reduce symptoms.


Which of the following is a central part of the renal system?

The renal system consists of the kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra, and it helps rid the body of waste. Many kidney diseases attack the nephrons, which are tiny structural units within them that filter toxin out of the blood.


A pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in the lung, is one medical issue a nurse might encounter. Which of the following is not one of its common symptoms?

Chest pain, coughing and shortness of breath are all common symptoms of a pulmonary embolism. Other symptoms include dizziness, skin discoloration, fever, leg pain or swelling, and irregular heartbeat.


Which of the following is not a respiratory ailment?

Emphysema and bronchitis are both types of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which is characterized by a build-up of mucus, persistent coughing and difficulty breathing. Asthma is also a respiratory condition involving the swelling of the airways, which, if untreated, can lead to COPD. Arrhythmia refers to a problem with rhythm or rate of one's heartbeat.


Can you identify the symptom that is not typically associated with a brain tumor?

Fevers are not typically associated with brain tumors, although complications caused by brain tumors could foreseeably lead to them in indirect ways. Some other signs and symptoms of brain tumors include vision trouble, personality changes, nausea, fatigue and changes in sleep patterns.


The flu (short for influenza) comes in many varieties and new types are constantly evolving. Do you know what influenza is caused by?

The flu is caused by influenza viruses that affect the eyes, nose and throat, leading to coughing, runny noses and sore or itchy throats. Other flu symptoms include fever and body aches.


Which of the following is not one of the four primary vital signs a nurse might check?

Vital signs are measurements of the essential bodily functions. Although nurses do measure patients' heights, height is not a "vital sign." (Neither is weight.) The four vital signs are temperature, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and heart rate, and these convey essential information about the functioning of the respiratory, cardiac and body temperature regulation symptoms.


This common skin condition causes a red, scaly rash. Can you name it?

Eczema is common across the population, especially in children. The National Institutes of Health report that it affects up to 20% of infants. Food allergies and environmental factors such as pollen and smoke are some of the leading causes. It can be treated with creams and oral medications.


"Analgesic" and "anesthetic" are two common medical terms. Can you identify the true statement?

With analgesics, patients remain fully conscious. Localized anesthesia can be applied to a specific area of the body. With general anesthesia, on the other hand, the patient is completely unconscious.


Can you identify the medical term for chickenpox?

Many children are vaccinated for chickenpox (or "varicella") if they don't contract it at an early age, as symptoms are often much worse in adults. This extremely contagious disease is caused by the varicella-zoster virus and causes an itchy rash, fever and fatigue.


Can you identify the true statement about bacteria and viruses?

Although bacteria and viruses can both cause diseases with similar symptoms, they are quite different. Bacteria are tiny, single-celled organisms, but viruses are even smaller. They consist simply of genetic material inside a protein coat and require a host organism to survive. They reproduce by reprogramming their host cells to create more of themselves.


How do antibiotics work to cure infections?

Antibiotics (also called antibacterials) kill the bacteria causing infection or decrease the bacteria's growth. Some work by attacking parts of cells that the bacteria have but the surrounding human cells do not, such as cell walls. Scientists are studying the extent to which antibiotic use weakens the immune system.


Many times, nurses will be required to give injections under the skin. What is the medical term for "under the skin"?

A subcutaneous injection is an injection into the fat layer under the skin. Insulin, for example, is always injected here because a deeper injection might absorb too quickly and not last as long.


One of the following is not a type of wound. Do you know which one?

An abscess is a sore or infection, and an abrasion is a scrape or a scratch. A contusion is another word for a bruise. A biopsy, on the other hand, is a medical procedure whereby a sample of tissue is removed from the body for testing.


Bedsores are a complication that can arise from a variety of medical conditions. Which of the following body parts is typically the least affected?

Bedsores result from continuous pressure on specific areas of the skin. They're common in patients with limited mobility who can't frequently change position in their bed or wheelchair.


A patient complains of syncope. What does this symptom refer to?

Syncope is temporary loss of consciousness, also called fainting. It is often caused by hypotension (when blood pressure is too low) because not enough oxygen is reaching the brain.


Osteoporosis is a skeletal condition that affects aging people, especially women. In people with this condition, bones ...

From the time of birth, bones are constantly regenerating. Peak bone mass occurs in people's early 20s. Osteoporosis occurs when bone loss significantly outpaces growth, resulting in bones that are porous, brittle and more prone to fracture.


Insulin enables the body to utilize and obtain nourishment from the food we eat. What is insulin?

The hormone insulin is secreted by the beta cells of the pancreas in response to blood sugar levels. People with diabetes do not have enough available insulin, either because their bodies aren't making enough or because they are utilizing enough.


What is the correct term for partial or complete loss of smell?

Causes of anosmia can include nasal polyps, radiation treatment, injury and certain antibiotics or anti-depressants. Loss of smell can lead to a decreased ability to taste.


Which of the following vocabulary words is not a part of the brain?

The cerebellum makes up about 10% of the brain's volume and regulates movements. The pituitary gland is a tiny organ dubbed the body's "master gland" that secretes hormones to the rest of the body. The amygdala is located in the brain's medial temporal lobe and plays a large role in the processing of emotions. The cricoid cartilage, on the other hand, is in the throat and encloses the trachea.


Many diseases call for palliative care. What does this term mean?

Palliative care occurs in terminal diseases and ones that can't be reversed, such as Alzheimer's disease. Even with diseases that can't be cured, medicine, exercises and other measures are often employed to slow progress and increase a patient's quality of life.


Which of the following refers to a fracture where the bone has bent and cracked as opposed to breaking completely?

Greenstick fractures typically occur in children, because their developing bones are more flexible than those of an adult. The term refers to young, green tree branches.


A sprain involves an injury to the ...

A sprain occurs when the ligaments — the tissue connecting to bones to one another — are stretched or torn. A strain, on the other hand, is a muscle spasm. They can both result in swelling, pain and limited flexibility.


Blood pressure is measured using two numbers, for example, "115 over 75." What does the second number (the diastolic blood pressure number) represent?

Medical professionals monitor patients' blood pressure as it is vital to overall health. Long term high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) can be very dangerous, causing blood clots and increasing the risk of stroke and heart disease.


The liver is one of the body's vital organs and also its largest gland. Which statement is not true about its functioning?

Located in the right side within the abdominal cavity, the liver weighs about 3 pounds. The liver's primary substance is to detoxify substances passing through the body. Aldosterone is a hormone produced in the body, but it's produced in the adrenal glands.


Do you know which statement about nurse practitioners (NPs) is false?

To become a nurse practitioner, a Master of Science in Nursing is required. NPs work with patients and can give care without the direct supervision of doctors. More NPs than RNs work in private practices and community health clinics.


Which of the following is not a true statement about type I and type II diabetes?

Type I is an autoimmune disease whereby the body does not make its own insulin. With type II diabetes, on the other hand, the body does make insulin but has trouble using it. Type I tends to occur earlier in life, whereas Type II tends to develop later.


Athletes are particularly prone to injuring the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Can you identify which statement about the ACL is true?

The ACL is one of the ligaments in the knee that holds it in place. It works with the PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) to prevent the shin from sliding under the femur. The PCL is larger and does not often produce the popping noise associated with a torn ACL.


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