The Complete A-Z of Nursing

When it comes to the complex and vast world of nursing, there are a lot of different topics that you should be intimately aware of. This is true whether you are just starting out in your career or have been practicing for several years.

This guide has been created as both a refresher and an introduction to some of the most important terms in the nursing world; a dedicated A-Z that covers a wide variety of items that you should definitely know before you walk into a hospital. Spanning from niche terms to generalized ideas, this A-Z has been designed as the essential overview of the world of nursing. Read on now to learn all about the nursing world.

A man standing with text The Complete A-Z of Nursing

A is for Anesthetic

Anesthetics is a highly important tool in any nurse’s arsenal. This is because anesthetics relieve pain, making them essential during potentially painful surgeries. There are two types of anesthetics, both local and general. Local anesthetic can isolate the source of pain and eliminate it and is usually used for minor surgeries (where the patient remains awake), while general anesthetic knocks a patient out, so they go to sleep during major surgery. A doctor will choose to use one or the other depending on the type of surgery they decide to perform.

B is for Bandage

Bandages are used by nurses for a whole host of reasons. They are often used to either support dressings and splints or can be used on their own to help a part of the body heal. They can slow blood flow too. They come in all shapes and sizes, from the general bandages that one can find in a pharmacy to specially shaped bandages which are used more often in a hospital setting.

C is for Clinic

Not all nurses work in general hospitals. A lot of them can work in clinics, which are health facilities that focus on the care of outpatients. It usually refers to a general practice, which can cater to a wide variety of issues, but there are also specialized clinics for more specific levels of care. Clinics can either be publicly or privately funded. Some are a mixture of both. In certain states, a family nurse practitioner can often work in a clinic and prescribe medication without the need of a doctor.

A person getting checked for diabetes

D is for Diabetes

People with diabetes (the severity of which can differ on the patient) require specialized care. Diabetics often have special bracelets which can show someone that they have the disease, as many of their symptoms resemble, and can be fatally mistaken for, those of an inebriated person. Nurses have to undergo specialized training to meet the specific needs of people with diabetes.

E is for Emergency

This term applies to nurses who work in an emergency room. Otherwise known as an intensive care unit, these are places where patients are treated quickly in order to deal with a life-threatening injury or disease. This is the most stereotypical image of a hospital, as seen in television shows such as ER — which, of course, stands for the emergency room. As a result of the difficulty of such a job, emergency room nurses command rather respectable salaries.

F is for Family Nurse Practitioner

Family nurse practitioners usually work in a clinic and their work relates to every aspect of care. This can come in the form of both preventative and diagnostic treatment, recommending best practices, and the prescription of medicines. In some states, family nurse practitioners are able to operate independently without the need for a doctor to be present. If you are interested in studying to become a family nurse practitioner, learn more about a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Degree here.

G is for General Hospital

A general hospital refers to a healthcare facility that will have a wide number of professions, diagnostic tools, and types of illness or injury present. This is a generalized facility, meaning that they deal with a whole host of different issues with each day and patient different from the next. It is worth bearing in mind that if there is something that they cannot treat, then they will refer the patient to a more specialized facility. These institutions can either be publicly or privately funded.

H is for Healthcare

Healthcare is at the center of everything that a nurse does. Their job is to ensure that their patients are all treated equally and are able to access the care that they need. The healthcare industry is considered to be one of the biggest in America, currently accounting for a whopping $3.8 trillion. Broken down for each individual American, this is around $11,500 per person.

I is for Injection

You might be reading a lot about injections these days due to the rollout of the vaccine for coronavirus, which requires an injection in order to be administered. Nurses inject patients for all kinds of reasons, however, spanning from emergency medicine being administered to simply vaccinating against the flu, making it a highly important part of the nursing practice.

A man with joint pain

J is for Joints

Joints and muscle pain are one of the major sources of woe for any American. A nurse should be well-trained in how joints work and be able to administer care that deals with any issue that arises. A nurse that is specially trained in the ins and outs of bones and joints is usually known as an orthopedic nurse.

K is for Kit

Every nurse should have a kit containing the items needed for good treatment. The types of items you should expect to see in a nurse’s kit include:

  • Lotion and Hand Sanitizer
  • Stethoscope
  • Reference Books
  • Scissors
  • Medical Tape
  • Bandages
  • Saline Flushes
  • Retractable Pens
  • Notebook
  • Sterilized Disposable Mask
  • Thermometer
  • Tourniquet
  • Watch
  • Tongue Depressor

These items simply make it easier to do your job, which is why no nurse should ever go without them in their bag!

L is for Legal

When working in a medical setting, there are a lot of legal implications regarding your work to consider. The last item on your mind when you are working to save lives is to be potentially sued over any kind of grievance or allegation of malpractice. This is why it is so essential to be abreast of the laws that surround nursing and make sure to always adhere to them.

M is for Medicine

Medicine is at the forefront of the healthcare battle and is involved with all types of care. Nurses are expected to have intimate knowledge of all the different types of medicine available and how they can be used within a nursing context. By arming themselves with useful information regarding how medicines work, they can be expected to do their job with the utmost professionalism.

N is for Natal Care

Natal care is about caring for women at every stage of the pregnancy process. Whether it is working as a midwife or assisting a doctor at the stage of delivery, natal care nurses are expected to have wide and deep knowledge of the pregnancy process. As they assist in the process of entering new lives into the world, their job can be one of the most rewarding across the world of nursing.

O is for Oncology

Oncology refers to cancer care. Whether it is diagnosis, treatment, or therapy, cancer care can be quite a demanding role, especially if someone is suffering from a terminal illness. Nonetheless, thanks to the rise in treatment for these types of issues, it is likely that the odds of fighting cancer successfully will increase.

P is for Patient

Patients are at the center of care. No matter what they do or how they feel, nurses should be able to put the patient first during their entire care process. After all, they are the people that the healthcare system is designed around, making them the most important figure in a hospital or similar institution.

Q is for Queues

As any nurse will know, when there are a lot of people waiting to be treated, then queues will form. This can often lead to a lot of patients being irritable. The trick here is to take their concerns seriously and assure them that they will be seen eventually. This type of event shows how much of a people-focused job nursing can be!

R is for Radiation

Depending on the type of nursing that you will deliver, it is likely that you might come into contact with radiation. While it is mostly safe in small doses, it is essential that you avail yourself of all the necessary guidelines in order to make sure that you are not adversely affected. This is something that is mostly used when working in an oncology unit.


S is for Sanitation

Hospitals and clinics have to be clean places. If not, then they can easily become breeding grounds for disease. That is why cleanliness and good sanitation principles should always be at the forefront of a nurse’s mind.

T is for Therapy

Whether it is mental or physical issues, it is likely that patients will need some sort of therapy to help them get back to their old self following an accident or operation. All nurses should have some idea of the therapeutic side of care!

U is for Uncertainty

Every nurse will experience uncertainty during their career, especially in situations that appear to be life-threatening to the patient or out of their control or scope of knowledge. There is no need to despair if you find yourself in the midst of uncertainty, as this can often be a good opportunity, allowing you to make deliberate decisions after consultation with other members of the medical team. Remember if you are unsure about something, the best idea is simply to ask someone else!

V is for Vaccination

Vaccinations are all the rage these days due to the effects of the coronavirus. It is likely that if you are a frontline worker, you have already received yours. In the normal day-to-day work of a family or general nurse, however, they are expected to give flu jabs to the young, as well as seasonal jobs for older people.

W is for Women’s Health

Women’s issues diverge significantly from men’s due to their sex and biological make-up. Nurses should be aware of the differences between men’s and women’s health as well as the that women might receive in a clinical setting.

X is for X-Ray

When screening for diseases or fractures, it is likely that an x-ray machine will be used. A nurse is there to make sure that the screening goes as smoothly as possible, especially if the patient is a bit nervous about the process. They should also be able to explain anything that comes up on the x-ray machine smoothly and clearly to the patient, before recommending the right level of care to deal with any problem that may arise.

Y is for Youth

Children are more likely to get minor injuries simply because they are a child with less experience and co-ordination than adults, so nurses should definitely be prepared to deal with young ones when it comes to their profession. If you are interested in working directly with children, then you can train to be a pediatric nurse. Just be aware that if you choose this route, you will likely need additional certification. You can also work with children if you become a family nurse practitioner.

Z is for Zoonotic Diseases

The world learned all about zoonotic diseases back in 2020 as the coronavirus ravaged the world. While the source of the disease is yet to be identified, it is highly suspected that it jumped from an animal to a human. Now as humans encroach more upon the habitats of animals, it is likely that more and more zoonotic diseases could be identified and pose general health risks to a wider population. It might be a scary thought to consider, but there is the real potential that a worse disease than coronavirus could be on its way. Nurses will have to be prepared!

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