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NorQuest Health Dictionary

A research guide focused on medical terminology


The first 12 hours of a day, starting after midnight and ending at twelve in the afternoon. The part of the day that is between midnight and noon is considered the morning or a.m. BCND 1000 Unit D1


Shortened forms of words or phrases used in writing to save time and space. If you do not know the correct abbreviation, write the word or words out in full to prevent misunderstandings. BCND 1000 Unit D1


A system of observing a client that includes noting changes to the Appearance of the client, Behaviours the client is demonstrating, Communication the client is using, and Status (condition and level of functioning) of the client. The HCA should observe the client for ABCS at every opportunity. BCND 1000 Unit D1

ABCs of behaviours

A method used to understand and effectively respond to challenging behaviours. A is the "action" or behaviour seen, B is for "because" or the reason for the behaviour, and C is for "communication," referring to how the caregiver responds to the behaviour. SCSF 1000 Unit F2


To move away from the body. When abducting the shoulder, move the arm away from the body until resistance or pain is felt. BCND 1000 Unit D2


Not normal, unusual. If an HCA sees an abnormal body condition it must be reported to the supervisor immediately. FOCC 1000 Unit C2


An open area of skin as a result of rubbing or scraping. Abrasions to the skin leave the body more at risk of infection. FOCC 1000 Unit C2

Abrasives/abrasive cleaners

Cleaning products containing small, rough (gritty) particles used to clean stains off surfaces. Abrasives can cause damage by wearing off the surface of a material and must be used with care. SCSF 1000 Unit F5


An area of tissue that has developed an infection, causing tissue death and a pocket of pus to form. The feeding tube can irritate mucous membranes, causing an abscess to form. SCAE 1000 Unit E5


To be away, not present. If you are absent from work it puts a strain on the other health-care team members. RRHB 1000 Unit B4


The habit of being away when you should be present, such as missing shifts you are scheduled to work. Frequent absenteeism from work will affect your relationships with other team members. RRHB 1000 Unit B4


To take in. Absorption of nutrients decreases as we age.


To pull or take in. Nutrients are absorbed from the bowel to the bloodstream in the ileum. SCAE 1000 Unit E1


The ability to take in or absorb something. The tube feeding formula used for a client will depend on several factors, including the absorptive ability of the digestive system. SCAE 1000 Unit E5


To be tolerant of all people and be understanding of and respectful to them. If you show acceptance towards your clients then they will feel respected. PCCA 1000 Unit A4


All Canadians with insurance must have access to health care services such as physicians and hospitals, without fees or other barriers. Accessibility is one of the five criteria outlined in the Canada Health Act. RRHB 1000 Unit B1


The condition of being easy to reach or of being easily available. Health care in Canada must be accessible to every Canadian citizen. PCCA 1000 Unit A4


Being able to explain the reasons behind one's actions; being responsible for one's own actions. When an HCA accepts an assigned task, she is accountable and responsible for her actions. RRHB 1000 Unit B1


The collection or gathering of a substance, forming an increasing amount. An accumulation of extra fluid in body tissue is called edema. PCCA 1000 Unit A3


To recognize or to make known to others. It is important to acknowledge a client's concerns and actively listen to the client. PCCA 1000 Unit A1

To recognize or admit to be true. It is important for the HCA to acknowledge the client's right to make his or her own decisions. PCCA 1000 Unit A4

Acquired brain injury

An injury to the brain that happens after the brain has already fully developed. The injuries are irreversible, non-progressive cognitive impairments that are not caused by dementias or inherited conditions. Acquired brain injury can be the result of injury, lack of oxygen to the brain, vascular disorders, seizures, or toxins. SCSF 1000 Unit F1

Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)

A disease caused by the HIV virus. There is treatment for AIDS, but no cure, and it eventually results in death. FOCC 1000 Unit C4


A word made from the first letter of each of a group of related words to help remember them. CTEMPS is an acronym made from the first letter of the words colour, temperature, movement, pulse, and sensation. BCND 1000 Unit D6

Active exercises

Movements that are performed by the client with the caregiver assisting and encouraging him. Active ROM exercises can be done while the client is lying, sitting, or standing. BCND 1000 Unit D2

Active listening

Making an effort to listen to the words, tone of voice, and body language when a person is communicating to you. Giving them your full attention, so you can receive and understand the intended message. PCCA 1000 Unit A1 Active listening and hearing the message are not the same thing; you can hear a message and still not understand it.

Activities of daily living/ADLs

Personal care activities such as dressing, grooming, mobility, and toileting that a person would normally perform on their own. For the HCA, activities of daily living can also include restricted activities. RRHB 1000 Unit B1

Activity director

Coordinates social activities and programs. The activity director, or coordinator, is a common support team member in facilities. RRHB 1000 Unit B3


Sudden or severe. Acute and crushing chest pain is a sign of heart attack. FOCC 1000 Unit C2

Starting suddenly and severely, such as an illness that develops quickly. Pneumonia is considered an acute illness because it develops quickly and can make a person very ill. RRHB 1000 Unit B1

Acute care facilities

A facility where people stay for a short time while receiving treatment for medical conditions. A hospital is an example of an acute care facility. RRHB 1000 Unit B1


Adjust to changes or alter to fit a situation. HCAs need to be able to adapt their approach and style of giving care to meet the needs of each client. RRHB 1000 Unit B2


To change or modify in order to meet the needs of a situation. If a client is visually impaired, the caregiver may adapt written communication by writing in large print that is easier to see. FOCC 1000 Unit C5


A small plastic device used at the end of a syringe to improve the way the syringe fits into a tube. An adapter allows a syringe to have a snug fit into the feeding tube so leaking is reduced. SCAE 1000 Unit E5

Adaptive communication

Refers to the ways communication can be modified or adapted to meet the needs of an individual, allowing effective communication to occur. An example of adaptive communication is learning to lip read because you have significant hearing loss. FOCC 1000 Unit C5

Adaptive techniques/Adaptive approaches

Something that is done to adapt to a specific situation. Examples of adaptive techniques used when communicating include printing in large letters, speaking more slowly, or using only a few basic words to reduce confusion. FOCC 1000 Unit C5


Refers to a substance that may cause the body to become dependent on it. Narcotics are addictive and clients using these drugs must be observed closely. SCAE 1000 Unit E6


To move toward the body. When adducting the shoulder joint, move the arm toward the body and across the mid-chest. BCND 1000 Unit D2


To give or apply medications. When you assist a client to take her medications, or give the client her medications, you are administering the medications. SCAE 1000 Unit E6

Adverse effect

A severe negative response to a medication, such as nausea and vomiting. A medication may need to be discontinued if the client suffers an adverse effect. SCAE 1000 Unit E6


A person who supports or speaks on behalf of another person. As an HCA, you have a responsibility to be an advocate for your client. PCCA 1000 Unit A4

Aerobic exercise

Exercise that raises the heart rate and increases the body's need for oxygen. Aerobic exercise can increase a client's appetite so he or she eats more during a meal. BCND 1000 Unit D7


Small particles that are suspended in the air when discharged from their container. Aerosol cans must be stored and used away from heat sources because there is a risk they could explode. SCSF 1000 Unit F5

Afternoon care/pm care

Skin care and grooming done for a client in the late afternoon or early evening to prepare a client for supper. Afternoon care helps to refresh the client and promotes a positive self-image. BCND 1000 Unit D4


A substitute decision-maker identified in a personal directive. The person named in an individual's personal directive is considered their agent. PCCA 1000 Unit A4

Age-related changes

Changes in body functions that progress gradually in all people as they age. Age-related changes to the body may go unnoticed until a person reaches middle adulthood. FOCC 1000 Unit C3

Age-related events

Events that one may expect at certain ages during their life span. Age-related events include getting married, having children, and retiring. FOCC 1000 Unit C3


Ignoring the needs of others and always putting your needs first. Aggressive people will try to make decisions for others in order to get what they want. RRHB 1000 Unit B3


A disturbed or upset state. When a client appears agitated the HCA needs to give the client time to voice her feelings. PCCA 1000 Unit A1


An illness or disorder that affects health. When an emotional need is not met, it can cause the appearance of a physical ailment. FOCC 1000 Unit C1

Airborne transmission

The transmission of microorganisms in the air. They are carried by small dust particles in the air, spreading easily within a room. Measles is a disease that uses airborne transmission to spread. PCCA 1000 Unit A2

Air circulation

The movement of air in a room. Circulating air, called drafts, can cause a client to feel chilled. PCCA 1000 Unit A3

Alberta Government Organization Act (GOA)

This Act allows regulated health professionals to assign specific tasks to be carried out under their supervision by non-regulated workers such as HCAs. According to GOA, HCAs are not allowed to diagnose, assess, or respond to acute health-care situations. RRHB 1000 Unit B1

Alcohol abuse

Misuse of alcohol. To support a client with an alcohol abuse problem, follow the care plan and report observations to the supervisor. SCSF 1000 Unit F1


Forming a straight line. When carrying objects, make sure that your body is in alignment by maintaining good posture. PCCA 1000 Unit A2

Alimentary canal

The digestive tract; a tube that starts at the mouth and ends at the anus. The alimentary canal uses smooth muscles to move food and fluids through the digestive system. FOCC 1000 Unit C2

Allergic response

The reaction that takes place when the body responds to a medication by defending itself. Allergic responses can be mild or severe and some can be life threatening. SCAE 1000 Unit E6


Sensitivity to a substance in the environment or substance put into the body that causes the body's immune system to overreact. Allergy symptoms can include swelling, sneezing, runny nose and eyes, itching, or a skin rash. BCND 1000 Unit D1


A non-adhesive sponge that absorbs large amounts of fluid. When applying an Allevyn dressing, it is important to be aware that the pink side is the top and should not be placed directly onto the skin. SCAE 1000 Unit E4

Altered behaviour/challenging behaviour

Behaviour that is unexpected and that can be difficult to deal with. The HCA understands that all behaviours have a cause and, if the cause is understood, the HCA can respond to the behaviour with an appropriate response. SCSF 1000 Unit F2

Alternating-pressure mattress

This type of mattress uses a small motor and air or water to inflate or deflate alternating areas of the mattress. When using an alternating-pressure mattress, there should be a minimal amount of linen between the mattress and the client. PCCA 1000 Unit A3


Small, hollow sacs found in the lungs that allow oxygen to enter the blood and carbon dioxide to leave the blood. Alveoli are needed for the exchange of gases that occurs during respiration. FOCC 1000 Unit C2

Alzheimer disease

The most common type of dementia causing progressive cognitive impairment; results in loss of memory and thinking abilities, as well as behaviour and mood changes. Currently, there is no known cause of Alzheimer disease. SCSF 1000 Unit F2


Able to walk and move from one place to another. It is important for the HCA to know how to assist clients to ambulate using various aids. BCND 1000 Unit D2

Ambulation aids/Mobility aids

Assistive devices that are individually measured and sized, so the client is able to maintain good body alignment during ambulation. Ambulation aids include canes, crutches, and walkers. BCND 1000 Unit D2


Medication given to reduce pain. Analgesic should be given before care is started, so the client is as comfortable as possible during care. BCND 1000 Unit D1


To examine. It is important that staff analyze a problem before creating possible solutions to resolve it. SCSF 1000 Unit F6


A sudden severe allergic reaction that causes difficulty breathing, drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness, and even death. Anaphylaxis occurs very quickly and can lead to death in minutes, even with medical treatment. SCSF 1000 Unit F5


The study of the structure of the human body systems. An understanding of human anatomy allows the HCA to recognize the difference between normal and abnormal conditions. FOCC 1000 Unit C2


Low number of healthy red blood cells in the blood. Anemia can be caused by a variety of problems in the body or in the environment. BCND 1000 Unit D1

Aneroid sphygmomanometer

An instrument used to take a blood pressure reading, it has an enclosed circular gauge with a dial to read the blood pressure and is used along with a stethoscope. Aneroid sphygmomanometers are portable, but lose accuracy over time. SCAE 1000 Unit E3


Intermittent chest pain that usually occurs during activity or stress because of narrowing of blood vessels leading to the heart. Stopping and resting or taking a prescribed medication can relieve angina. FOCC 1000 Unit C4

Anomic aphasia

Occurs when a person cannot find the words related to what they want to talk about or write about, particularly nouns and verbs. Speech remains fluent and sentence structure remains, but key words are missing. The person with anomic aphasia understands speech and written language, but has difficulty finding words. FOCC 1000 Unit C5


A medication used to lower the gastric acid level in the stomach. Antacids are used to relieve stomach upset, indigestion, and heartburn. SCSF 1000 Unit F1


Towards, or on the front of, the body. For example: "A 6mm bluish bruise seen to the left anterior lower leg." BCND 1000 Unit D1


An agent that destroys some bacteria and/or prevents bacterial growth. Antibacterial cleaning supplies can be used to destroy bacteria on the surface of objects. PCCA 1000 Unit A2


To think ahead and prepare in advance. An effective skill for an HCA to learn is anticipating client needs. FOCC 1000 Unit C5

Anticipatory grief

Emotions of grieving and coming to terms with losing a loved one that are felt before the death occurs. Some family members may withdraw from the client before the client dies as a way to deal with anticipatory grief. SCSF 1000 Unit F3


Drugs used to reduce the symptoms of an allergic reaction. Antihistamines are available for purchase without a prescription. SCSF 1000 Unit F1

Antipsychotic drug/drugs

Drug used to treat a mental condition. Antipsychotic drugs are sometimes used as a chemical restraint to control the behaviour of a person. RRHB 1000 Unit B2


No urine output. Anuria can be caused by a blocked urethra. BCND 1000 Unit D1


A feeling of fear and worry. Anxiety ranges from a normal reaction to an event, to a mental health condition which interferes with the ability to function and cope with normal activities of life. SCSF 1000 Unit F1

Anxiety disorders

A group of mental health disorders caused by biological or psychological factors that result in anxiety overwhelming the affected person so she can no longer function or cope with daily life. Anxiety disorders can cause feelings of panic including shortness of breath, dizziness, increased heart rate, and shallow, rapid breathing. SCSF 1000 Unit F1


Complete or partial impairment of the ability to communicate using verbal language or written language. Two common causes of aphasia include stroke and brain injury. FOCC 1000 Unit C5


Not breathing, no respirations. Periods of apnea may be observed when a client is sleeping, causing an irregular pattern of respirations. SCAE 1000 Unit E3


Clothing. To protect an incontinent client's dignity he should wear protective apparel during the day. BCND 1000 Unit D3


To attract interest. When caring for a client with dementia, appealing to her emotional capacities is an effective strategy that creates a more successful interaction. SCSF 1000 Unit F2


How something or someone looks. Observations about the appearance of a client include how she is dressed and groomed, facial expression, and body language. BCND 1000 Unit D1


Feeling nervous and uneasy or anxious. Students are often apprehensive before starting their clinical practice. BCND 1000 Unit D1


Inability to speak or difficulty speaking because the brain cannot send messages to the muscles involved in speech. A person with apraxia may pronounce words differently due to lack of muscle coordination. FOCC 1000 Unit C5


The darker area of skin surrounding the breast nipple. The HCA should advise a breast-feeding mother to ensure the infant latches onto the whole nipple and areola. SCSF 1000 unit F4


Loss of the thickness and elasticity of the blood vessel walls. Known as 'hardening of the arteries.' Arteriosclerosis causes reduced blood flow and increased blood pressure that can lead to stroke. FOCC 1000 Unit C4


Blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to the cells of the body. Arteries carry blood high in oxygen to the cells of the body. FOCC 1000 Unit C2

Arthritic conditions

A group of conditions that cause inflammation of the joints and other tissues. Arthritic conditions include osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. FOCC 1000 Unit C4


An abbreviation for the phrase "as soon as possible." After shopping for a client, it is important to refrigerate any foods that must stay at a cool temperature ASAP to prevent bacteria from growing on the food. SCSF 1000 Unit F5

Ascending colostomy

A colostomy that is located in the ascending colon. An ascending colostomy will produce frequent, liquid stools. SCAE 1000 Unit E1


A technique for maintaining cleanliness. When assisting clients with personal care activities it is important to start with the cleanest area, then move to the less clean, or dirty. When giving a client a bed bath, maintain asepsis by starting at the head and working to the toes. PCCA 1000 Unit A2


Lack of oxygen to the body that may result in injury or death. A physical restraint may cause a person to asphyxiate if it gets tangled around the neck, restricting airflow to the lungs. RRHB 1000 Unit B2


Occurs when food or liquid enters the lungs instead of being swallowed. When giving oral care to client who is unconscious, it is important to turn the client's head to the side toward you to prevent choking and aspirating. BCND 1000 Unit D5


The ability to express your own needs and viewpoints while being respectful of other people's needs and viewpoints. Assertiveness can be learned and is an important skill to have when you work with others. RRHB 1000 Unit B3

Assigned task

A task that is designated as part of your role as an HCA and that must be supported by employer policy. Not all agencies allow HCAs to give medications as part of their assigned tasks. SCAE 1000 Unit E6

Assisted living

Living in one's own home with support services available from an agency within the same building. HCAs often work in assisted living settings. RRHB 1000 Unit B1

Assisted transfer

A move from one position to another in which the caregiver assists the client with part of the transfer, such as assisting the client to a standing position. A client must be able to bear weight for a caregiver to do an assisted transfer. BCND 1000 Unit D2


Making a judgment or guess that something is true without having all the facts. When documenting about a client always state the facts and not your assumptions of a situation. BCND 1000 Unit D1


To believe something without knowing whether it is true. One common assumption is that older people do not have sexual feelings. FOCC 1000 Unit C1


Episodes of narrowing of the airways caused by inflammation and buildup of secretions in the airways. Symptoms of asthma include coughing, wheezing when breathing, and shortness of breath. FOCC 1000 Unit C4


Not symmetrical; two sides that are not the same. Asymmetrical flattening of the back and one side of an infant's head causes a forward and upward shift of the ear, cheekbone, and eye socket on the side of the head receiving prolonged pressure. SCSF 1000 unit F4


A build-up of plaque and fatty deposits inside blood vessels causing narrowing of the blood vessels. Atherosclerosis increases the pressure on blood vessels and can cause high blood pressure, stroke or myocardial infarction (MI). FOCC 1000 Unit C4


The sights, sounds, and smells of an environment and the effect it has on how a person feels. A relaxed atmosphere with pleasant sights and smells can improve the appetite of a client. BCND 1000 Unit D7


Loss of mass of a body pa Loss of mass of a body part through inactivity. People paralyzed below the waist will have muscle atrophy in their legs. PCCA 1000 Unit A3

Augmentative communication

Using a tool or device to improve communication. Examples of augmentative communication include using a hearing aid, wearing glasses, or using a board with pictures of items on it than can be pointed to. FOCC 1000 Unit C5

Augmentative device

The item or tool that is used in adaptive communication. A magnifying glass, paper, and a writing pen are all examples of augmentative devices. FOCC 1000 Unit C5


A disorder of the brain that is seen early in life, and that results in a range of learning, social, and communication difficulties. A child with autism will need therapy to help manage behaviour and learning problems. SCSF 1000 unit F4

Autoimmune diseases

A group of diseases caused by the body's immune system not working properly and attacking its own normal body tissue. Autoimmune diseases include lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. FOCC 1000 Unit C4

Autonomic nervous system

Part of the peripheral nervous system that controls the organs of the body. An individual cannot voluntarily control the autonomic nervous system. FOCC 1000 Unit C2


The right of every individual to make their own decisions, and to have those decisions respected. Part of autonomy is allowing every client to make decisions about the care they will be given. PCCA 1000 Unit A4


An examination of the body organs and tissues after death. Those who follow Hindu beliefs do not allow autopsies to take place. SCSF 1000 Unit F3


Not feeling comfortable in a situation. A female client may feel awkward receiving care from a male caregiver. BCND 1000 Unit D4

Axillary temperature

A measurement of body heat using a thermometer that is placed in the axilla (armpit). When taking an axillary temperature it is important that the arm being used is held close to the body for the recommended period of time. SCAE 1000 Unit E3