Hospitals » Glossary


Accreditation - a determination by a recognized accrediting body that an eligible organization complies with applicable standards for the purpose of improving the quality of patient care.

Acute Care - medical treatment rendered to individuals whose illnesses or health problems are of a short-term or episodic nature. Acute care facilities are those hospitals that mainly serve persons with short-term health problems.

Administrative Controls - managerial measures designed to reduce employee exposures to safety and health hazards. Examples include job rotation, work assignment, or training in specific work practices designed to reduce the exposure.

Anesthetic Agent - a drug used to reduce or abolish temporarily neuronal function, producing total or partial loss of sensation. Examples of anesthetic agents are halothane, enfluorane, isoflurane, desofluorane, sevofluorane, and methoxyfluorane.

Antineoplastic Drugs - drugs used in the treatment of cancer and other tumors.

Ambulatory Health Care - a type of healthcare service provided without the patient being admitted to a hospital. It is also called outpatient care.

Aperture - any opening in the protective housing or other enclosure of a laser product through which laser or collateral radiation is emitted, thereby allowing human access to such radiation.

(APIC) - The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology - an organization for infection preventionists whose stated purpose is to create a safer world through the prevention of infection through patient safety, implementation science, competencies and certification, advocacy, and data standardization.

(ASHE) - The American Society for Healthcare Engineering - a professional society that represents individuals responsible for optimizing healthcare facilities and creating and maintaining safe healing environments and is affiliated with the American Hospital Association.

(ASHRAE) - The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers - a professional organization dedicated to advancing the arts and sciences of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration.

(ASHRM) - The American Society for Healthcare Risk Management - a professional organization that strives to advance risk management in the healthcare field.


(BBP) - Bloodborne Pathogens, as defined in OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1030 - pathogenic microorganisms that are present in human blood and can cause disease in humans. These pathogens include, but are not limited to, hepatitis B virus (HBV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Ebola Virus.

(BSC) - Biological Safety Cabinets - primary containment devices used by laboratory workers when handling moderate and high-risk organisms.


Carpal Tunnel Syndrome - the compression and entrapment of the median nerve where it passes through the wrist into the hand--in the carpal tunnel. The median nerve is the main nerve that extends down the arm to the hand and provides the sense of touch in the thumb, index finger, middle finger, and half of the fourth, or ring, finger.

(CDC) - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - a federal agency that works to protect the health and safety of the public at home and abroad. The CDC serves as a national focus for developing and applying disease prevention and control, environmental health, and health promotion and education activities designed to improve the health of the people of the United States.

(CMS) - The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services - the federal agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that runs the Medicare and Medicaid programs — two national healthcare programs that benefit millions of Americans. CMS helps millions of Americans obtain health insurance coverage, and helps eliminate discrimination based on health status for people buying health insurance. CMS also regulates all laboratory testing (except research) performed on humans in the United States.

Chronic Care - care and treatment rendered to individuals whose health problems are of a long-term and continuing nature.

Collimated Beam - beam that is effectively parallel.

Contaminated Sharps, as defined in the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1030(b) - any contaminated object that can penetrate the skin including, but not limited to, needles, scalpels, broken glass, broken capillary tubes, and exposed ends of dental wires.


(DHHS) - Department of Health and Human Services - the federal agency that oversees Medicare, Medicaid, the CDC, and other federal healthcare and research programs.

Diverging Beam - beam that increases in diameter the further away it is from the aperture.


(EAP) - Employee Assistance Program - a work-based program that helps employees and managers work through various life challenges that may adversely affect job performance, health, and personal well-being.

Ergonomics - the science of designing the job to fit the worker, rather than physically forcing the worker’s body to fit the job. When there is a mismatch between the physical requirements of the job and the physical capacity of the worker, work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) can result.

(EtO) - Ethylene Oxide - a sterilant for items that cannot be exposed to steam sterilization. EtO is a colorless liquid below 51.3°F, or a gas that has an ether-like odor at concentrations above 700 parts per million (ppm), and is both flammable and highly reactive.

Excimer Laser - a pulsed ultraviolet laser in which the active medium is a short-lived molecule containing a rare gas such as xenon and a halogen such as chlorine.


Ground-fault - a fault, or insulation failure, in the wire used to create a path to ground.

(GFCI) - Ground-fault circuit interrupter - a device that detects an insulation failure by comparing the amount of current flowing to electrical equipment with the amount of current returning from the equipment. Whenever the difference is greater than 5 milliamps, the GFCI trips and thereby interrupts the flow of electricity.

Glutaraldehyde - a high-level disinfectant and cold sterilant used to disinfect and clean heat-sensitive medical, surgical and dental equipment.


(HCS) - Hazard Communication Standard

Healthcare Provider - healthcare professionals and institutions, including, but not limited to: physicians, nurses, physical therapists, chiropractors, hospitals, clinics, laboratories, and home health agencies.

(HEPA) - High-Efficiency Particulate Air.

(HBV) - Hepatitis B Virus.

(HCV) - Hepatitis C Virus.

(HIV) - Human Immunodeficiency Virus.

Hospital - a healthcare facility that has a governing body, an organized medical and professional staff, and inpatient facilities, and provides medical, nursing, and related services for injured patients.

(HPGP) - hydrogen peroxide gas plasma. used for sterilization.


Inpatient - a person who has been admitted at least overnight to a hospital or other health facility.


The Joint Commission (TJC) - a healthcare standards-setting and accrediting body. TJC evaluates and accredits more than 21,000 healthcare organizations in the United States, including hospitals, healthcare networks, managed care organizations, and healthcare organizations that provide home care, long term care, behavioral healthcare, laboratory services, and ambulatory care services.


Latex Allergy - allergic reactions, such as skin rashes, hives, nasal, eye, or sinus symptoms, asthma, associated with exposure to latex gloves and other products containing natural rubber latex.

Long Term Care - a set of healthcare, personal care and social services, in an institution or at home on a long-term basis, required by persons who have lost, or never acquired, some degree of functional capacity

(LPN) - Licensed Practical Nurse - an individual who has completed a one-year nursing program and who has passed the licensing examination for practical nurses.


Managed Care - an organized system of healthcare that encourages providers to deliver the most appropriate care in the most effective manner. Managed care plans are also known as HMOs or coordinated health plans.


Medicaid - a medical assistance program, administered by CMS, that serves low-income people of every age. Patients usually pay no part of costs for covered medical expenses. A small co-payment is sometimes required. Medicaid is a federal-state program. It varies from state to state. It is run by state and local governments within federal guidelines.

Medicare - a federal health insurance program, administered by CMS, which serves people over age 65 primarily, and also serves younger disabled people and dialysis patients.

(MRSA) - Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

(MSDs) - Musculoskeletal Disorders - disorders that result when there is a mismatch between the physical capacity of workers and the demands of the job. MSDs result from overexertion or repetitive motion, and include soft-tissue injuries such as sprains, strains, tears, hernias, and carpel tunnel syndrome (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Work-related MSDs are caused or aggravated by work-related stressors such as lifting, reaching, pulling, pushing, and bending.

(MDRO) - Multi-Drug Resistant Organism.


(NFPA) - National Fire Protection Association - a provider of fire, electrical, and life safety standards and education to the public.

(NIOSH) - The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health - Federal agency responsible for conducting research and making recommendations for the prevention of work-related disease and injury. In addition to conducting research, NIOSH investigates potentially hazardous working conditions when requested by employers or employees; makes recommendations and disseminates information on preventing workplace disease, injury, and disability; and provides training to occupational safety and health professionals.

Needleless Systems - as defined in OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1030, a device that does not use needles for: (1) The collection of bodily fluids or withdrawal of body fluids after initial venous or arterial access is established; (2) The administration of medication or fluids; or (3) Any other procedure involving the potential for occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens due to percutaneous injuries from contaminated sharps.

Nosocomial - originating or taking place in a hospital, such as an infection or disease acquired in a hospital or other healthcare facility.

(NP) - Nurse Practitioner - a registered nurse who has received advanced training in physical examination and assessment; in some States, the NP can diagnose and prescribe under a physician's supervision.

(NA) - Nursing Assistant - an individual who gives basic nursing care under the supervision of an RN or LPN; also called a nurse's aide, nursing attendant, healthcare assistant, and orderly.

Nursing Home - one of a wide range of institutions that provides various levels of maintenance and personal or nursing care to people who are unable to care for themselves.


(OPIM) - Other Potentially Infectious Materials, as defined in OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1030(b)) - (1) The following human body fluids: semen, vaginal secretions, cerebrospinal fluid, synovial fluid, pleural fluid, pericardial fluid, peritoneal fluid, amniotic fluid, saliva in dental procedures, any body fluid that is visibly contaminated with blood, and all body fluids in situations where it is difficult or impossible to differentiate between body fluids; (2) Any unfixed tissue or organ (other than intact skin) from a human (living or dead); and (3) HIV-containing cell or tissue cultures, organ cultures, and HIV- or HBV-containing culture medium or other solutions; and blood, organs, or other tissues from experimental animals infected with HIV or HBV.

(OSHA) - The Occupational Safety and Health Administration - federal agency tasked with assuring safe and healthful conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing occupational safety and health standards and providing information, outreach, training, education, and compliance assistance to employers and workers. OSHA is part of the U.S. Department of Labor. OSHA covers most private sector employers and workers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and other U.S. jurisdictions either directly or indirectly through an OSHA-approved state program.

Outpatient - a patient who is receiving ambulatory care at a hospital or other facility without being admitted to the facility.


(PA) – Physician Assistant - a medical professional who provides services under the supervision of a physician. Physician assistants may perform physical examinations, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, prescribe medications (in most states), and plan and implement therapeutic interventions.

(PACU) - Post-Anesthesia Care Unit.

(PEL) - Permissible Exposure Limit.

(PPE) Personal Protective Equipment - equipment worn to minimize exposure to hazards that cause serious workplace injuries and illnesses. These injuries and illnesses may result from contact with chemical, radiological, physical, electrical, mechanical, or other workplace hazards. Personal protective equipment may include items such as gloves (such as vibration-reduction gloves for preventing MSDs), safety glasses and shoes, earplugs or muffs, hard hats, respirators, or coveralls, vests and full body suits.


(RN) - Registered Nurse - an individual who has graduated from an accredited nursing program and who has passed a licensing examination.

Resident - the recipient of care from a long-term care facility. The term "resident" can be used interchangeably with "client", "customer", or "patient". Also, a physician training in a specialty, consisting of two or more years following internship.


(SDS) - Safety Data Sheet - a requirement of OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS).

Sharps with engineered sharps injury protections - as defined in the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1030(b), a non-needle sharp or a needle device used for withdrawing body fluids, accessing a vein or artery, or administering medications or other fluids, with a built-in safety feature or mechanism that effectively reduces the risk of an exposure incident. In this document, the term is used synonymously with the term “Safer Needle Devices”

Skilled Nursing Facility - a healthcare institution that meets federal criteria for Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement and is primarily engaged in providing to residents skilled nursing care that can only be done by licensed nurses. Such care includes complex wound care, rehabilitation, tube feedings or rapidly changing health status.

Sonographer - a medical professional who operates ultrasound imaging devices to produce diagnostic images.

Sonologist - a physician skilled in diagnostic ultrasound practice and interpretation.

Specular Reflection - a mirror-like reflection.

(SP) - Standard Precautions - an approach to infection control which is based on a risk assessment of the potential for transmission and makes use of common sense practices and personal protective equipment.


(TB) – Tuberculosis - a disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

Tendinitis (also called tendonitis) - inflammation or irritation of a tendon (a thick cord that attaches bone to muscle).

Tenosynovitis - inflammation or injury to the synovial sheath surrounding the tendon. May result from excessive repetitive motion.

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome - compression of the nerves and blood vessels between the muscles of the neck and shoulder or between the first rib and clavicle which can result in burning, tingling, and numbness along arm, hand, and fingers. Associated with repeated reaching above shoulder level.

Transmission-Based Precautions - the second tier of basic infection control, to be used in addition to Standard Precautions, for infected individuals (e.g., patients, visitors or staff members) or individuals who may be colonized with certain infectious agents for which additional precautions are needed to prevent or minimize transmission of infectious agents.

Triage - classification of ill or injured persons by severity of conditions, most commonly occurs in emergency rooms or emergency situations.


(UP) - Universal Precautions - as defined in the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1030(b), an approach to infection control which treats all human blood and certain human body fluids as if known to be infectious for HIV, HBV, and other bloodborne pathogens.


(VHP®) - Vaporized hydrogen peroxide. Used for sterilization. Also known as hydrogen peroxide vapor.


Waste Anesthetic Gases - those gases that are inadvertently released into the workplace and/or can no longer be used, typically fugitive anesthetic gases and vapors that are released into anesthetizing and recovery locations from equipment used in administering anesthetics under normal operating conditions, as well as those gases that leak from the anesthetic gas scavenging system, or are exhaled by the patient into the workplace environment. Waste anesthetic gases may include N2O and vapors of potent (when inhaled) and volatile anesthetic agents such as halothane, enflurane, isoflurane, desflurane and sevoflurane.

Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders - See definition of (MSDs) - Musculoskeletal Disorders.