Preparatory terms

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Shortened medical terms. The advantage of shortening the written document is obvious, but frequently that advantage is outweighed by the disadvantage of potential mistakes or confusion resulting from the misunderstanding of abbreviations. If there is any doubt as to the use of a medical term or abbreviation, should spell out the word in its entirety.





1. The act of being received as adequate. 2. One of the five stages of death and dying created by medical ethicist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross. This final stage comes with peace and understanding of the death that is approaching. Generally, the patient will want to be left alone. Additionally, feelings and physical pain may be non-existent. This stage has also been described as the end of the dying struggle.

advanced directive

ad·vanced di·rec·tive

/ədˈvanst diˈrektiv/


An advanced directive is a written document that clearly specifies what actions a health care provider should, or should not perform in life-or-death situations. A common example of an advanced directive is a “Do Not Resuscitate” or DNR order.

advanced emergency medical technician

ad·vanced e·mer·gen·cy med·i·cal tech·ni·cian

/ədˈvanst iˈmərjənsē ˈmedikəl tekˈniSHən/


A person certified as an EMT who is also authorized to perform limited invasive procedures. These include starting IV’s, administering several medications, and inserting specific types of supraglottic airways. The recommended training time is 150 - 250 hours. It incluces classroom, skills and training time spent performing clinical observations.

American Ambulance Association

A·mer·i·can am·bu·lance as·so·ci·a·tion

/əˈmerikən əˌˈambyələns sōsēˈāSHən,-SHē-/


Founded in 1979, this association represents ambulance services across the United States.





One of the five stages of death and dying created by medical ethicist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross. Anger often comes after denial. The patient thinks, “Why me?” This patient can be difficult to care for due to misplaced feelings of rage and envy.





Causing a patient to feel afraid that you might cause harm is known as assault.



/ˈbärgən iNG/


One of the five stages of death and dying created by medical ethicist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross. This stage involves the hope that the individual can somehow postpone or delay death. Usually, the negotiation for an extended life is made with a higher power in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. The patient thinks, "I understand I will die, but if I could just have more time..."

base station

base sta·tion

/bās ˈstāSHən/


A fixed radio that is used to maintain communication with a fleet of EMS vehicles and personnel that are using portable hand-held or mobile radios





Actually placing your hands on a patient without consent is termed battery. For example, not gaining consent prior to performing a hands-on assessment may be a battery case.



/sûr t -f -k sh n/


An acknowledgement by an authorized agency such as local or state government that one has demonstrated entry-level competency in a field of study.

closed question

closed ques·tion

/klōzd ˈkwesCHən/


One that can be answered by a single word or short phrase. They can help you direct the discussion, and are easier and faster to answer. However, they may not help you get a complete or detailed answer from the patient.

combining form

com·bin·ing form

/kəmˈbīn'iNG fôrm/


Also known as "combining vowels", combining forms are just that, vowels (most commonly “o”, but other vowels are used as well), combined with root words to facilitate the pronunciation of the medical term. For example, muscul–o–skeletal.

communicable disease

com·mu·ni·ca·ble dis·ease

/kəˈmyo͞onikəbəl diˈzēz/


Communicable diseases come in a variety of forms, such as bacterial, viral and fungal infections. These micro-organisms can be transmitted through the atmosphere (airborne) or through human secretions such as saliva, tears, semen, or blood (bloodborne).





Speaking clearly and seeking to understand what is being said. When writing a report, do so with legible printing, use appropriate medical terminology, and be accurate in your observations.

continuous quality improvement

con·tin·u·ous qual·i·ty im·prove·ment

/kənˈtinyo͞oəs ˈkwälətē imˈpro͞ovmənt/


Systematically evaluating certain aspects of care on an ongoing basis. Data is collected and analyzed for any trends or signs of changes in quality, ether positive or negative. Specific possible causes of degradation or improvement are identified and plans are implement to correct or continue the identified behaviors.

crisis management briefing

cri·sis man·age·ment brief·ing

/ˈkrīsis ˈmanijmənt ˈbrēfiNG/


A critical incident stress management intervention, this is a large, homogeneous (composed of such likeminded individuals as EMTs, paramedics and firefighters) group intervention used before, during and after a crisis to discuss stress survival skills and/or other available support services. Briefings may be repeated as situation changes.

critical incident stress debriefing

crit·i·cal in·ci·dent stress de·brief·ing

/ˈkritikəl ˈinsidənt stres dēˈbrēf iNG/


A critical incident stress management intervention, this is a proactive intervention involving a group meeting or discussion about an especially distressing event. Based on core principles of crisis intervention, CISD is facilitated by a specially trained team that includes professional and peer support personnel. Ideally CISD is conducted between 24 and 72 hours after the incident, but may be held later under exceptional circumstances.

critical incident stress management

crit·i·cal in·ci·dent stress man·age·ment

/ˈkritikəl ˈinsidənt stres ˈmanijmənt/


Critical incident stress management is an intervention protocol developed specifically for dealing with traumatic events. It is a structured process for helping those involved in a critical incident to share their experiences, vent emotions, learn about stress reactions and symptoms and given referrals for further help if required. Its effectiveness has been questioned in recent studies. CISM interventions include: critical incident stress debriefing, defusing, grief and loss sessions and crisis management briefing.



/diˈfyo͞oz iNG/


A critical incident stress management intervention, this is an intervention that is a shorter, less formal version of a debriefing. It is designed to stabilize people affected by the incident so that they can return to their normal routines without unusual stress. It generally lasts from 30 to 60 minutes, but may last longer. Defusing is best conducted within one to four hours after a critical incident. It is not usually conducted more than 12 hours after the incident.





One of the five stages of death and dying created by medical ethicist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross. Denial is often an early stage, where the patient is unable to accept the concept of death. She might think, “This is not happening to me.” Denial is a temporary defense mechanism.





One of the five stages of death and dying created by medical ethicist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross. During the fourth stage, the patient recognizes that death is certain. Because of this, the individual may become silent, refuse visitors and spend much of the time crying and grieving. This process allows the dying person to disconnect himself from love and affection. It is not recommended to attempt to cheer an individual up that is in this stage. It is an important time for grieving that must be experienced and processed.

direct contact

di·rect con·tact

/diˈrekt ˈkänˌtakt/


Direct contact transmission occurs when a person with a communicable disease gives it to another person through behaviors such as touching or sexual contact.

durable power of attorney

du·ra·ble pow·er of at·tor·ney

/ˈd(y)o͝orəbəlˈpou(-ə)r əv əˈtərnē/


Like children, an adult can also have a legal guardian appointed by a court to make medical decisions on his behalf. This guardian has a durable power of attorney over the medical care of a patient who otherwise does not have the ability to make decisions related to that care.

duty to act

du·ty to act

/ˈd(y)o͞otē to͞o akt/


When you are on duty as an EMT you have the obligation to provide care when requested. This is known as duty to act. Compensation is not a factor associated with duty to act; rather it is whether there is an expectation for a response.

emancipated minor

e·man·ci·pat·ed mi·nor

/iˈmansəˌpādəd ˈmīnər/


A class of that has been made free of parental control and have decision-making authority regarding their own health care. In most states, minors are usually automatically emancipated when they become pregnant or have children of their own regardless of their age.

emergency medical responder

e·mer·gen·cy med·i·cal re·spond·er

/iˈmərjənsē ˈmedikəl riˈspänd ə,ər/


A person trained to provide basic life support. Training is recommended to be 48 - 60 hours in length. It includes classroom and skills time. It is designed to prepare people who are first on scene, including police officers, lifeguards or industrial first aid teams, to provide rudimentary care.

emergency medical technician

e·mer·gen·cy med·i·cal tech·ni·cian

/iˈmərjənsē ˈmedikəl tekˈniSHən/


A person certified as an EMR who is also authorized to perform additional basic life support. Training is recommended to be at least 150 - 190 hours. It incluces classroom, skills and training time spent performing clinical observations.





The ability to understand what the patient is experiencing emotionally as well as physically.

ethical behavior

eth·i·cal be·hav·ior

/ˈeTHikəl biˈhāvyər/


Acting in an ethical manner.





Ethics is defined as the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group. For an individual, ethics may vary widely, depending upon that person’s sense of right or wrong behavior (moral conduct). Medical ethics examines questions of moral right and wrong as they apply in the context of medical care.

evidence-based medicine

ev·i·dence based med·i·cine

/ˈevədəns bāsˈed ˈmedisən/


Using research findings to develop and refine prehospital medicine rather than continuing to base medical care on conjecture and individual opinions.

expressed consent

ex·pressed con·sent

/ikˈsprest kənˈsent/


Most often, the patient will clearly allow the EMT to perform an assessment and provide treatment. This is known as expressed consent. A patient must be legally competent in order to give expressed consent, meaning that he is old enough (over 18 years, typically), and mentally alert enough to understand what is being explained and what is happening to him. The consent to treatment does not have to be verbal.

external validity

ex·ter·nal va·lid·i·ty

/ikˈstərnl vəˈlidətē/


Regarding how well the researchers did in proving their hypothesis. To have external validity, their findings must relate to a wide variety of situations.

false imprisonment

false im·pris·on·ment

/fôls imˈprizənmənt/


Confining or restricting a patient’s ability to leave your care is cause for a false imprisonment charge. Immobilizing a patient to a long spine board or transporting her to a hospital without proper consent constitutes false imprisonment.

Good Samaritan laws

Good Sa·mar·i·tan laws

/go͝od səˈmaritn lôz/


Collectively known as immunity or Good Samaritan laws, these statutes limit the potential for legal damages a victim can receive from a rescuer in case of an unintended injury or death.

grief and loss session

grief and loss ses·sion

/grēf and lôs,läs ˈseSHən/


A critical incident stress management intervention, this is a structured group or individual session following a death that assists people in understanding their own grief reactions.

gross negligence

gross neg·li·gence

/grōs ˈnegləjəns/


A particularly harmful form of malpractice is gross negligence, where intent to breach duty or cause harm can be proven.





An explanation formulated based on information that was available.

implied consent

im·plied con·sent

/imˈplīd kənˈsent/


There will be times when a patient may not be able to provide consent, even if she wants to. In these situations, the doctrine of implied consent will allow you to initiate care. Implied consent means that it would be reasonable to assume that a person who was experiencing a medical emergency, who could not express consent, would do so if given the chance.

indirect contact

in·di·rect con·tact

/ˌindəˈrekt ˈkänˌtakt/


Indirect contact occurs when an infected individual touches, sneezes on, or somehow contaminates a surface or object, such as a countertop or keyboard. Another person comes into contact with the same surface, and unknowingly becomes infected with the disease.





Acting ethically.

internal validity

in·ter·nal va·lid·i·ty

/in·ter·nal vəˈlidətē/


Regarding how well the researchers did in proving their hypothesis. To have internal validity, the study must use acceptable methods of collecting data.





A law is a rule of conduct or action prescribed or formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority.





An EMS provider can injure a person’s reputation or standing by stating something untrue about that person. It is considered slander if it is said, and libel if it is written.





The legal age at which a person is no longer a minor

mature minor

ma·ture mi·nor

/məˈCHo͝or ˈmīnər/


The mature minor doctrine allows a minor to demonstrate ability and maturity to make their own decisions about health care. Not all states have adopted the mature minor doctrine. In some cases, minors are given the right to refuse treatment just as they are given the right to consent to treatment. The right to refuse treatment may be granted even if the minor’s decision to refuse treatment conflicts with the wishes of the parents.

medical direction

med·i·cal di·rec·tion

/ˈmedikəl diˈrekSHən,dī-/


EMTs and other certified or licensed prehospital care providers work under the delegated authority of the physician EMS medical director. Each EMS system must have a physician serve as medical oversight for its patient care

medical ethics

med·i·cal eth·ics

/ˈmedikəl ˈeTHiks/


A system that examines questions of moral right and wrong as they apply in the context of medical care.





A person who is younger than the age of legal competence





Feeling the need to achieve a goal. Self-motivation is what will carry you through a call no matter how difficult or upsetting it can be.

Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy

mun·chau·sen syn·drome by prox·y

mən(t)SH CHouzen ˈsinˌdrōm bī ˈpräksē/


A rare form of maltreatment in which the caregiver exaggerates or induce symptoms and/or illness in another person

National Association of EMS Educators

na·tion·al reg·is·try of ems ed·u·ca·tors

/ˈnaSHənəl əˌsōsēˈāSHən,-SHē- of ēms ˈejəˌkātərs/


A 501 ( c ) non profit educational association that incorporated in 1995 to serve as a professional membership organization for EMS educators.

National Association of EMS Physicians

na·tion·al reg·is·try of ems ed·u·ca·tors phy·si·cians

/naSHənəl əˌsōsēˈāSHən,-SHē- of stāt ems ˈfiˈziSHəns/


An association formed 1984 by emergency medical service leaders from a cross-section of the U.S. to connect EMS physicians responsible for medical care in the out-of-hospital setting.

National Association of EMTs

na·tion·al as·so·ci·a·tion of emts

/ˈnaSHənəl əˌsōsēˈāSHən,-SHē- of ēmts/


An association formed in 1975 to represent the professional interests of EMS professionals in the United States.

National Association of State EMS Officers

na·tion·al as·so·ci·a·tion of state ems of·fi·cials

/naSHənəl əˌsōsēˈāSHən,-SHē- of stāt ems ˈəˈfiSHəls/


A national association formed in 1980 as a nationwide network of coordinated and accountable state, regional and local EMS and emergency care systems.

National Registry of EMTs

na·tion·al reg·is·try of emts

/ˈnaSHənəl ˈrejəstrē of ēmts/


A national agency formed in 1970 to administer a consistent, standards-based competency examination for the levels of EMS certifications.

nonverbal communication

non·ver·bal com·mu·ni·ca·tion

/nänˈvərbəl kəˌmyo͞onəˈkāSHən/


Conveying how we feel through body language.

objective finding

ob·jec·tive find·ing

/əbˈjektiv ˈfīndiNG/


The secondary assessment of the human body focuses on the clinical findings that you can see, touch, hear and smell.

open question

o·pen ques·tion

/ˈōpən ˈkwesCHən/


One that generally requires a longer answer. This question type will generate a more detailed response from the patient, although it will take longer and may not be as direct as with a closed question.





A person who is trained to provide all of the skills of the EMT and AEMT in addition to the full extent of advanced life support skills. Paramedics must be certified as an EMTs to begin paramedic training. The general length of training is at least 1,100 hours. It incluces classroom, skills and training time spent performing clinical observations.

patient advocacy

pa·tient ad·vo·ca·cy

/ˈpāSHənt ˈadvəkəsē/


Working for the benefit of the patient. This might include speaking up for the patient when transferring care, to make sure he is moved to the appropriate bed or is promptly seen by a nurse or physician.

peer review

peer re·view

/pi(ə)r riˈvyo͞o/


The process in which manuscripts that are submitted to scholarly journals by researchers are sent to other experts for evaluationa nd consideration.

personal protective equipment

per·son·al pro·tec·tive e·quip·ment

/ˈpərsənəl prəˈtektiv iˈkwipmənt/


An essential component of scene safety, PPE acts as a barrier to a variety of potential hazards. PPE includes uniform, gloves and eye protective devices.

pertinent negative

per·ti·nent neg·a·tive

/ˈpərtn-ənt ˈnegətiv/


While not always obvious, pertinent negatives are significant to record. These are really “nonfindings”, meaning that things that should have been found, were not. An example would be that of a patient who looks like he is in breathing rapidly (an objective finding) but does not complain of trouble breathing (a subjective nonfinding). In this case, an EMT can document this pertinent negative as, “Patient denies shortness of breath.”

pre-crisis education

pre cri·sis ed·u·ca·tion

/pri ˈkrīsis ˌejəˈkāSHən/


Education that can provide a foundation for critical incident stress management services. It includes incident awareness, crisis response strategies and develops stress management coping skills that can prevent major problems should an incident occur. It can take the form of an employee handbook, e-book and/or workshops and training seminars.





Prefixes precede the root word to modify its meaning without changing the meaning of the root word. Prefixes qualify the root word by providing additional information. For example, peri/card/itis, where peri- refers to surrounding something. In this case, it refers to the tissue surrounding the heart.





When a stereotype is negative in value or even hostile

public safety answering point

pub·lic safe·ty an·swer·ing point

/ˈpəblik ˈsāftē ˈansər iNG point/


A call center where 9-1-1 calls are routed.



/ˈrē sûr t -f -k sh n/


In all states, EMS providers must renew their certificate on an ongoing basis.





Achieving certification in more than one state.





How well the study was designed. In other words, could another group of researchers recreate the study by reviewing the research design, and come up with the same or similar results.





The act of appreciating people for who they are.

root word

root word

/ro͞ot wərd/


The root word is the base of all medical terms. It describes the medical condition, body part, or body system to which prefixes, suffixes, and combining forms are attached. Root words can be singular, as in peri/card/itis, where /card/ refers to the heart, or there can be more than one root word.

scope of practice

scope of prac·tice

/skōp əv ˈpraktəs/


Government, usually at the state level, defines the EMT’s scope of practice. What an EMT can and cannot perform is spelled out through regulation and statutes. For example, in most states the EMT is authorized to obtain a full set of vital signs, but not permitted to administer medications through an intravenous (IV) line.





An EMS provider can injure a person’s reputation or standing by stating something untrue about that person. It is considered slander if it is said, and libel if it is written.





A standard is something that is established by authority, custom or general consent as a model or example. Standards in medicine are set by a variety of methods and groups. For example, the American Heart Association sets guidelines for performing basic life support for cardiac arrest patients.

standard of care

stand·ard of care

/ˈstandərd əv ke(ə)r/


As an EMS provider, your actions are held to a standard of care. This means that, at a minimum, your care must be at the standard, not below it. Providing less than the standard may mean that you are negligent in your care, a serious error that you may be held liable.

standard precautions

stand·ard pre·cau·tions

/ˈstandərd priˈkôSHəns/


According to the Centers for Disease Precautions, the minimum infection prevention measures that apply to all patient care, regardless of suspected or confirmed infection status of the patient, in any setting where healthcare is delivered. Standard Precautions include: 1) hand hygiene, 2) use of personal protective equipment (e.g., gloves, gowns, facemasks), depending on the anticipated exposure, 3) respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette, 4) safe injection practices, and 5) safe handling of potentially contaminated equipment or surfaces in the patient environment.

Star of Life

star of life

/stär of līf/


The universal sign of EMS. Designed by NHTSA in 1973, its six branches represent the major elements of an EMS incident: 1) detection, 2) reporting, 3) response, 4) on-scene care, 5) care during transport, and 6) transfer to definitive care.

statutory report

stat·u·to·ry re·port

/ˈstaCHəˌtôrē riˈpôrt/


There are several situations in which you are compelled by law to report a situation where a person’s health may be at risk. These statutory reporting laws make allowances for EMTs to simply have a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing, rather than hard physical evidence.





Applying a bias across an entire group of people





Suffixes attach to the end of root words to give additional meaning, or to change the tense of medical terms. For example, peri/card/itis, -itis referring to inflammation of something, in this case, inflammation of the pericardium.





A tort is simply a wrongful act committed by one party against another, that results in an injury. The injury may be physical, emotional or otherwise harms the other party in some significant way.