Most EMS Terminology Comes Down to Initials, Abbreviations and Acronyms

NCOAE Headquarters

August 12, 2022

A few years ago, we ran a three-part series on slogans, slang, and terminology as it applies to a trio of human-powered outdoor recreational activities. If you recall, we started out with some “gnarly” surfing terms, then we “tied in” to a conversation about climbing, finally pulling a “wet exit” on the language of paddling.

You can review these three articles using the links below: 

There was quite a bit of word whimsy in those articles, and we made sure to remind readers that successfully lassoing the linguistics of a particular activity was no guarantee you were mastering that particular sport professionally. 

Today we’re taking a more serious look at language, this time highlighting the terminology used by members of the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) community. That’s because one of our areas of focus here at The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE) is emergency medicine training and education. And whether you’re an EMS, medical professional, or wilderness first responder (WFR), these terms are most often employed when these professionals find themselves managing a medical emergency. 

First off, you might notice that most of these terms come in the form of acronyms, abbreviations, and initials, and the reason for that is to enable first responders to quickly communicate and react with each other and the patient in the field.

The source for these acronyms comes from the NCOAE Wilderness Medicine Field Guide (ISBN 978-0-578-87449-4). 

Here, we present them in alphabetical order:

ABC – Airway, Breathing and Circulation – “This is the Golden Rule of emergency medical professionals”

AED – Automated External Defibrillator – The device that delivers electric shock to the heart of patients experiencing sudden cardiac arrest

A-EMT – Advanced EMT

ALS – Advanced Life Support

Anaphylaxis— Severe, life-threatening systemic reaction on the circulatory and respiratory systems 

AMS – Altered Mental State

BLS – Basic Life Support

CPR – Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation

ED – Emergency Department 

EMS – Emergency Medical Services

EMT – Emergency Medical Technician

FSA – Focused Spinal Assessment 

Fx — Fracture

HR – Heart Rate

Hx – Patient history

LOC – Level of Consciousness

Medic – Paramedic

OPQRST — Onset, Provocation, Quality, Radiate, Severity, Time

OTC – Over the Counter 

PAS — Patient Assessment System

Pt – Patient 

Px — Problem

SAMPLE – Symptoms, Allergies, Medications, Previous/Pertinent, Last Intake/Output, Events

S/Sx – Signs and Symptoms

Triage – The process of prioritizing the medical response according to severity of Pt’s condition/injury

Tx – Treatment

V/S – Vital Signs

If you’re interested in putting the above acronyms, abbreviations, and initials to good use because working as an EMT is something you want to pursue, have a look at our Emergency Medicine Training options or call our office at (910) 399-8090.

About the Author:

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.



Have any further questions about our courses, what you’ll learn, or what else to expect? Contact us, we’re here to help!