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NorQuest Health Dictionary

A research guide focused on medical terminology

Back flow

The flow of urine in the wrong direction causing urine to move back into the bladder. Back flow of urine can cause bladder or kidney infection. SCAE 1000 Unit E1


One-celled microorganisms that can cause disease. Bacteria can only be seen by using a microscope. PCCA 1000 Unit A2


A simple dressing with a padded, non-stick area in the centre and adhesive areas on either side. Band-Aids can be used as a simple dressing to protect a minor skin tear as it heals. SCAE 1000 Unit E4

Bannister;  spindles

A bannister is a handrail used when climbing stairs in a stairway. Spindles are railing supports, used to secure the handrail.    The banister or spindles in clients' homes may have the potential to cause harm if they are loose. RRHB 1000 Unit B2


Occurs when a dying person feels an offer or promise to do good will give him a second chance at life, or more time before   dying. Denial, anger, bargaining, and acceptance are all emotions a person may feel when they know they are dying. SCSF   1000 Unit F3


 Something that prevents the real message from being received, such as distractions, hearing loss, and interruptions. As people age, their vision and hearing may decline, becoming barriers to effective communication. PCCA 1000 Unit A1

 Barrier  (protective)

 An obstacle that prevents microorganisms from contaminating a surface. Gloves, protective gowns, and masks are all considered protective barriers. PCCA 1000 Unit A2


A set of information that is collected and used as a reference point, so other information can be compared to it. Specimens are used to determine what is wrong with a person or to get a baseline for future reference. SCAE 1000 Unit E1

Baseline (vital signs)

A set of information that is collected and used as a reference point, so other information can be compared to it. Temperature, pulse, respirations, and blood pressure are measured and recorded initially and then these readings are used as a baseline for measurements done later. SCAE 1000 Unit E3

Base of support

The part of an object on which its weight is resting. Your base of support is your feet because they support your body weight. The wider you have your feet apart (base of support), the more stable you are. This means keeping your feet about hip-width apart. It is easier for a person to balance with both feet on the ground than with only one foot on the ground. PCCA 1000 Unit A2

Bedpan/Standard bedpan

A shallow pan shaped like toilet seat that is used when a client must urinate or defecate while in bed. Empty the bedpan and clean it immediately after use, according to agency policy and procedure. BCND 1000 Unit D3


How a client behaves or acts within his surroundings and how he interacts with others. It is important to note changes in behaviour of a client, record the changes observed, and report them. BCND 1000 Unit D1


Releasing gas from the stomach through the mouth, also known as burping. Frequent belching and upset stomach could be symptoms of a gastrointestinal disorder. BCND 1000 Unit D1


What someone accepts as true or real. Health care aides must be sure they do not let their own beliefs affect the care that they provide. PCCA 1000 Unit A4


To make something or someone seem unimportant. If you don't take a client's opinions and decisions seriously, then you are belittling the client. PCCA 1000 Unit A1


Aggressive, angry behaviour. Belligerent behaviour seen in a client who is normally calm and cooperative should be reported to the supervisor. BCND 1000 Unit D1


Active promotion of goodness and kindness. Beneficence means doing your best to promote your client's well-being and not causing harm to the client. PCCA 1000 Unit A4


Does not cause harm. Does not spread. A benign growth of tissue is not cancerous and does not spread throughout the body. FOCC 1000 Unit C4

Benign tumour

A tumour that is not cancerous and does not spread to other areas of the body. Benign tumours sometimes have to be surgically removed. FOCC 1000 Unit C4


A person who is experiencing a period of sadness after losing a loved one. After a Jewish funeral the bereaved have a formal period of mourning called a "shiva." SCSF 1000 Unit F3


A period of sadness experienced after the loss of a loved one. Groups of trained volunteers serve as a burial committee for bereavements in the Muslim community. SCSF 1000 Unit F3


A greenish liquid that is produced by the liver. The liver releases bile into the small intestine to help digest fat particles. FOCC 1000 Unit C2


Can easily and naturally be broken down into substances that do not harm the environment. Many clients may prefer to use biodegradable products in their homes. SCSF 1000 Unit F5

Biohazardous materials

Materials that have the potential to cause harm, disease, or infection. Biohazardous materials must be handled and disposed of properly to prevent illness or infection. SCSF 1000 Unit F5

Biohazard wastes

These are blood, body fluids, human wastes, and items that are saturated with blood and body fluids. A saturated paper towel that has been used to wipe up a blood spill would be disposed of in a biomedical container (yellow bag or container). PCCA 1000 Unit A2


The science of the structure and function of the body. Biological influences may affect an individual's health, as with asthma or diabetes. RRHB 1000 Unit B1


A hollow organ that expands as it fills with urine from the ureters. When the bladder is full, it empties out of the body through the urethra. FOCC 1000 Unit C2

Bladder (in the BP cuff) or rubber tubing

An expandable sac inside the cuff of a blood pressure machine that is inflated with air to compress the brachial artery. The bladder in the cuff of the blood pressure machine must be carefully placed over the brachial artery in order to get an accurate blood pressure reading. SCAE 1000 Unit E3

Blink reflex

A reflex in which an infant will blink his eyelids if the bridge of his nose is touched. The blink reflex is a common reflex seen in a newborn. SCSF 1000 unit F4


A liquid-filled, raised area of the skin caused by irritation. Blisters may form if the plastic or tape tabs of an incontinent brief come in contact with the skin. BCND 1000 Unit D3

Blister pack/Bubble pack

A system the pharmacy uses to pre-measure and package medications. This system consists of cards with plastic bubbles that are filled with medications and then sealed over with foil. Blister packs make it easier for clients to take the right medication, on the right day, and at the right time. SCAE 1000 Unit E6

Blood pressure (BP)

A measurement of the pressure of blood as it flows through the arteries when the heart contracts and when it relaxes. Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg), with the top number being the systolic blood pressure and the bottom number being the diastolic blood pressure. The normal blood pressure for a resting adult is 100/60 to 140/90 mmHg. SCAE 1000 Unit E3

Blood vessels

Ducts that carry blood throughout the body to every cell. There are two types of blood vessels -- arteries and veins. FOCC 1000 Unit C2


To dab or press down with a dry cloth or paper towel to absorb as much liquid as possible off a surface. When cleaning spilled liquids off a rug, blot up as much of the liquid as possible before trying to clean any stains that may remain. SCSF 1000 Unit F5

Bodily needs

A function the body must perform to maintain health, such as eating, urinating, or defecating. A client who is restrained must be allowed to attend to bodily needs on a regular basis. RRHB 1000 Unit B2

Body alignment

Alignment occurs when body parts are positioned in proper relation to each other. When positioning a client in bed, it is important to ensure his body alignment is correct so he is comfortable. PCCA 1000 Unit A3

Body language

Sending a wordless message through actions of body movement, such as waving hands, nodding head, or folding your arms across your chest. When communicating, you can better understand a message by observing the sender's body language. PCCA 1000 Unit A1

Body mechanics

The practice of using your body to move or lift objects correctly, in order to prevent injury. It requires maintaining a line of gravity, a balanced centre of gravity, a base of support, and proper leverage. Using good body mechanics is an important step in helping to prevent injuries. PCCA 1000 Unit A2


Loud and energetic way of talking and acting. Avoid using a loud, boisterous voice when talking in the workplace setting. RRHB 1000 Unit B2


Hard, rigid structures made from connective tissue that form the skeleton of the body. Bones are grouped into four types: long bones, short bones, flat bones, and irregular bones. FOCC 1000 Unit C2

Bony prominence

Areas of the body where there is little tissue and fat between the skin and the bones (heels, elbows, shoulder blades, ankles, knees, coccyx, and hips). Skin breakdown and pressure sores occur more easily at bony prominences. PCCA 1000 Unit A3


Limits set on what people do for others and what they allow others to do for them. It is important to establish and maintain professional boundaries with all customers. SCSF 1000 Unit F6

Bounding pulse

A pulse that feel as if it is bouncing or jumping in the vein. When timing the pulse, it is also important to feel the pulse and describe it using terms such as thready or bounding. BCND 1000 Unit D1

Bowel obstruction

A blockage inside the intestines that prevents the movement of food along the gastrointestinal tract. Bowel obstruction may cause constipation, with symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and abdominal distension. SCAE 1000 Unit E5

Brachial artery

An artery that runs from the shoulder down through the anterior (front) upper arm. When measuring blood pressure, make sure the cuff of the BP machine is placed around the upper arm, so when it inflates it compresses the brachial artery. SCAE 1000 Unit E3


An organ of the body, found in the head, that is part of the nervous system. The brain is divided into a left hemisphere and a right hemisphere. FOCC 1000 Unit C2

Brain stem

Part of the brain that controls involuntary activities such as heart rate and breathing. The brain stem is found at the top of the spinal cord. FOCC 1000 Unit C2


An activity in which a group of people freely shares ideas to solve a problem. The aim is to produce as many ideas as possible in a short amount of time. When brainstorming, all ideas are written down and, later, each one is discussed and evaluated. RRHB 1000 Unit B3

Brand name

The name a manufacturer gives to a medication. Brand name medications common in Canada include Aspirin, Tylenol, Advil, and Reactine. SCAE 1000 Unit E6

Break-through bleeding/spotting

Vaginal bleeding that occurs outside the regular menstrual cycle. Break-through bleeding is an abnormal symptom of the reproductive system. FOCC 1000 Unit C2


A partial denture that is secured in the mouth by hooking it onto the teeth on either side of the missing teeth. A bridge that is removable should be removed and cleansed daily. BCND 1000 Unit D5

Broca's aphasia

A condition in which the ability to speak is largely affected, causing difficulty finding the right words and difficulty forming the words during speech. The ability to write is also affected, but the ability to understand spoken and written language may remain. FOCC 1000 Unit C5

Buccal tablet

Buccal is a medical word used when referring to the cheek or inside of the mouth. A tablet is a dose of medication compressed into a small pill. A buccal tablet is a dose of medication in pill form that is taken by mouth, but instead of being swallowed, it is dissolved in the mouth and allowed to be absorbed through the mucous membranes. SCAE 1000 Unit E6


A set amount of money available for spending on a particular need, such as food. When grocery shopping for a client, you must know the client's budget spend it carefully. SCSF 1000 Unit F5


A painful swollen area of the big toe at the joint between the toe and foot, caused by excessive pressure to this joint, or by arthritis. Bunions can make walking difficult and they may become infected if not treated. BCND 1000 Unit D5


A condition that occurs when the stress level in the body becomes too overwhelming and the body can no longer cope. Common signs of burnout include feeling overly emotional, very short-tempered, and emotionally exhausted. RRHB 1000 Unit B4


The part of the body between the lower back and the thighs that you sit on. Also known as bum, or bottom. If a client sits too long in one position her buttocks may become uncomfortable. BCND 1000 Unit D2


To create a new pathway when the original one is no longer functioning properly. Some health conditions make it necessary to bypass a part of the small or large intestine. SCAE 1000 Unit E1