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NorQuest Health Dictionary

A research guide focused on medical terminology


Small particles of animal skin, hair, or feathers that cause an allergic reaction in some people. Dander can cause an infant's airway to swell and increase his risk of dying of SIDS. SCSF 1000 unit F4


A disorder of the scalp resulting in visible flakes of skin, dry scalp, and itching. There are special shampoos made to treat the symptoms of dandruff. BCND 1000 Unit D5


To hang over an edge. If a client has been sitting on the side of the bed with his legs and feet dangling over the edge, it is important that he place his feet flat on the floor before attempting to stand. BCND 1000 Unit D2


Intimidating or frightening. Caring for and supporting an adult with a brain injury can be a daunting job. SCSF 1000 Unit F2

Decubitus ulcer

See pressure sore. PCCA 1000 Unit A3

Deep breaths/deep respirations

Occurs when breathing appears to draw more air into the lungs than normal. When a client takes deep breaths his chest will move much more than normal during those respirations. SCAE 1000 Unit E3


To have a bowel movement (BM). Defecation and bowel movement both refer to the discharge of bowel waste from the body. BCND 1000 Unit D1


A loss, worsening of, or deterioration. Some diseases cause a degeneration of muscle tissue, reducing physical functioning of the person. FOCC 1000 Unit C4

Degenerative disease

A disease that causes the affected body parts to become worse over time. BCND 1000 Unit D3


Cleaners made to dissolve grease or oily dirt. Degreasers are solutions that dissolve grease and oil, making them easier to remove. SCSF 1000 Unit F5


A condition caused by losing too much body fluid. Frequent emesis or frequent diarrhea can cause the body to become dehydrated. FOCC 1000 Unit C4


A condition that may occur if a client loses too much fluid or does not take in enough fluid. A client should take in between 1500-2000 ml of fluid each day to prevent dehydration. BCND 1000 Unit D1


A mental state that occurs suddenly, causing temporary confusion, hallucinations, or disorientation. A client can suffer with delirium and paranoia at the same time. SCSF 1000 Unit F1


Feelings or beliefs that are untrue. Delusions and a feeling of being persecuted can be caused by a state of paranoia. SCSF 1000 Unit F1


A condition that interferes with brain functioning, causing a loss of cognitive abilities such as memory, language, and judgment. Dementia can also cause changes in a person's personality and behaviour. FOCC 1000 Unit C4

A group of diseases that cause cognitive impairments. It is important for the HCA to remember that dementia is not part of the aging process; it is a disease. SCSF 1000 Unit F2

Denture adhesive

A thick paste used in the grooves of dentures where the gums fit into the dentures. Denture adhesive improves the connection of well-fitting dentures to the gums. BCND 1000 Unit D5

Denture brush

Similar to a toothbrush, it has two sets of bristles-- a longer narrow set used for brushing the deep grooves of dentures, and a shorter wider set of bristles for brushing the surface areas of the dentures. A client's denture brush can only be used on her own dentures, not shared among different clients. BCND 1000 Unit D5

Dentures/Partial denture

Removable, man-made teeth, on a base, that replace missing natural teeth in the mouth. A denture appliance can replace all the teeth on the upper or lower jaw, or a few missing teeth from the upper or lower jaw. BCND 1000 Unit D5

Deny or denying

To not accept or not acknowledge something as true. If you do not let a client talk about his feelings then you are denying the client's feelings. PCCA 1000 Unit A1


To remove foul-smelling odours from a room by using neutralizing spray or airing the room out. To provide for client dignity and comfort, deodorize the room after elimination is completed. BCND 1000 Unit D3

Deoxygenated blood

Blood that has a low amount of oxygen. Deoxygenated blood can be found in the veins of the body. FOCC 1000 Unit C2


Describes a variety of mental health conditions causing feelings of sadness or disinterest in life that can last for a short time or an extended period of time. Depression can be a temporary reaction to an event, or a clinical syndrome that must be treated with medication and counselling. SCSF 1000 Unit F1

Depth of respiration

Refers to the volume (amount) of air the client is drawing into the lungs. The chest will normally move slightly up and down with each respiration. SCAE 1000 Unit E3


The inner layer of skin, found below the epidermis. The dermis is where the nerves, blood vessels, and sweat glands are found. FOCC 1000 Unit C2

Descending colostomy

A colostomy that is located in the descending colon. A descending colostomy will produce firm, well-formed stools. SCAE 1000 Unit E1

Desired effect

The expected response to a medication. The desired effect describes what the drug is supposed to do. The desired effect of Tylenol is to relieve pain and reduce fever. SCAE 1000 Unit E6


Chemicals designed to wash away dirt. Soap is the oldest type of detergent, but it can leave a film on surfaces and must be rinsed off. SCSF 1000 Unit F5


Come to a decision. When you are asked to perform a task, first determine if the task is within your role as an HCA. SCAE 1000 Unit E1


Refers to the changes in psychological and social functioning from birth to death. Development is measured by thinking strategies and coping mechanisms used in life. FOCC 1000 Unit C3

Developmental disability

A disability associated with a condition that occurred before birth, during birth, or in the early stages of growth and development. Causes of developmental disabilities includes genetic conditions, drug or alcohol use of the mother during pregnancy, trauma during birth, and malnutrition. SCSF 1000 Unit F1

Developmentally delayed

Occurs when a child is learning and developing more slowly than expected, based on normal ranges. HCAs provide support to the parents of children who are developmentally delayed. SCSF 1000 unit F4

Developmental milestones

A measurement of the development of an infant based on the cognitive, social, and physical skills a child can accomplish at a certain age. Physical developmental milestones for an infant from birth to four months includes lifting head and chest up when on the stomach, sitting with support, grasping at objects, and rolling from stomach to back. SCSF 1000 unit F4

Developmental task

A psychological or social challenge that must be met before moving on to the next challenge in order to develop into a normal and healthy individual. The developmental task of coping is different for a child who still has temper tantrums when he can't have something he wants, and an adult who has learned to control the need for immediate satisfaction. FOCC 1000 Unit C3

Developmental theories

Attempts to explain how normal, healthy individuals develop physically, psychologically, emotionally, and socially. Erik Erickson created his own developmental theory. FOCC 1000 Unit C3


A disease caused by the pancreas not producing enough insulin, or by the body not using the insulin efficiently. Diabetes causes high blood sugar levels resulting in vision, kidney, and circulatory problems. FOCC 1000 Unit C4

Diabetic meal plan

A meal planned for someone with diabetes so it has a balance of protein, fats, and carbohydrates. In a facility, the dietitian prepares diabetic meal plans for clients with diabetes. BCND 1000 Unit D7


The process of a health-care professional assessing signs, symptoms, and doing tests to determine the cause of a disorder. The diagnosis for Alzheimer disease and irreversible dementias can only be done after death, when the brain tissue can be examined. SCSF 1000 Unit F2


Sweating more than normal. If a client is observed to be diaphoretic, this must be reported to the supervisor. BCND 1000 Unit D1


A muscle found below the lungs that causes the lungs to expand and contract. When the diaphragm contracts and expands it causes air to move in and out of the lungs. FOCC 1000 Unit C2


Loose, watery stools that can be accompanied by cramps and gas. Uncontrolled diarrhea can cause a client to become dehydrated. FOCC 1000 Unit C4

Diastolic blood pressure

The pressure of blood flowing through the arteries when the heart is resting. The diastolic blood pressure is the bottom or last number in a blood pressure reading. SCAE 1000 Unit E3


To cut food into small pieces. If a client cannot chew very well, the caregiver may need to dice the food before serving it. BCND 1000 Unit D7


A professional who assesses the client's nutritional needs and plans special diets. In a facility, the dietitian is part of the health-care team. RRHB 1000 Unit B3


To distinguish between or recognize the differences between two or more similar things. It is important that the HCA be able to differentiate between continuous tub feeding and intermittent tube feeding. SCAE 1000 Unit E5


The process of breaking food down physically and chemically for the body to use. Digestion is an essential process that provides nutrition to the body. FOCC 1000 Unit C2

Digestive system/Gastrointestinal system

The body system in which food is broken down into small particles to supply nutrients for the cells of the body. Organs that make up the digestive system include the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and intestines. FOCC 1000 Unit C2


A widening. Dilation of the pupils is normal when entering a dark room. FOCC 1000 Unit C2

Direct contact

The transfer of microorganisms from person to person through direct skin contact. When you wipe your runny nose and then spread the microorganisms to another person by immediately shaking his hand, direct contact transmission has occurred. PCCA 1000 Unit A2

Direct questions or Closed-ended questions

These types of questions usually have a 'yes' or 'no' answer; or answer is limited to specific information. Asking a person what they had for breakfast this morning is an example of a direct question. PCCA 1000 Unit A1

Dirty (soiled)/contaminated

Items that contain both harmless and harmful microorganisms. Soiled or contaminated items should not touch clean items. PCCA 1000 Unit A2


A condition that affects one's daily life, such as a loss of physical function or mental function. The term disability is often replaced with the word impairment; for example, a person who is deaf is said to have a hearing impairment. RRHB 1000 Unit B1


Training and education in an area of study, such as medicine, nursing, or physiotherapy. A team of caregivers from different disciplines will work together toward a common client goal. RRHB 1000 Unit B3


Not in agreement; different from each other. If a client says one thing and the care plan states something different, the HCA needs to report this discrepancy to the supervisor and not follow a client preference that is different from the care plan. BCND 1000 Unit D1

A difference or inconsistency in information or opinions. It is important to communicate discrepancies in care strategies stated on the client's chart and care plan, so the supervisor can clarify and correct them. SCAE 1000 Unit E6


The ability to recognize differences between similar things. A three-month-old infant should be able to discriminate shapes and colours. SCSF 1000 unit F4


Treating some people differently than others in the same situation. Discrimination can result in not meeting your clients' needs. PCCA 1000 Unit A4


Cleaners that destroy harmful microorganisms and reduce their growth on surfaces on which these cleaners are used. Chlorine bleach is a disinfectant that is commonly found in homes and must be handled carefully because it can irritate skin or eyes. SCSF 1000 Unit F5

Disinfectant swab or Antiseptic swab

Individually packaged wipes soaked with a disinfectant solution, such as alcohol. Use a disinfectant swab to clean the joint between the catheter and the tubing of a urinary drainage system. SCAE 1000 Unit E1


The process of destroying many harmful microorganisms. Disinfection helps remove the source of infection. PCCA 1000 Unit A2


Occurs when the feeding tube shifts out of the area it should be in, partially or completely. A disoriented client may pull on her feeding tube, causing it to dislodge. SCAE 1000 Unit E5

Displaced (feeding tube)

Occurs when the feeding tube has moved from its proper place within the gastrointestinal tract. It is the nurse's responsibility to check that the feeding tube is not displaced before a tube feeding is started. SCAE 1000 Unit E5


Farthest away. When bathing a client, wash the body part that is distal from you first and then the proximal body part. BCND 1000 Unit D4


To expand and become larger due to pressure from within. Before measuring blood pressure, the client should empty her bladder because a distended bladder affects this measurement. SCAE 1000 Unit E3


To grow larger due to pressure build-up on the inside. Abdominal distension can be a symptom of a digestive system disorder. BCND 1000 Unit D1

Distilled water

Water that has been treated to remove all solid substances that are invisible to the eye. Distilled water is used in oxygen humidifiers and it must be changed each day. SCAE 1000 Unit E2


To see or show the differences between two different things. To distinguish between short-term and long-term care means to identify the differences between them. RRHB 1000 Unit B1


Too much stress resulting in a negative effect on health and wellness. Distress affects our ability to function and cope with everyday life events. RRHB 1000 Unit B4

Distress signal/signals

Signs your body sends to let you know that it cannot cope with the level of stress it is feeling. Some common distress signals are headache, diarrhea, irritability, and agitation. RRHB 1000 Unit B4


A substance that causes an increase in urine output, resulting in the body losing water. Coffee and tea contain caffeine and are not good sources of fluid because they have a diuretic effect on the body. BCND 1000 Unit D7


Sharing private information with others who should not have that information. An HCA knows personal information about clients that she must not divulge to others. FOCC 1000 Unit C5


A feeling of being off-balance; a sensation that you may fall over. If a client tells you he feels dizzy then you should have him lie down until the feeling goes away. BCND 1000 Unit D1


A professional who diagnoses and treats a patient. The physician is an important member of the support team. RRHB 1000 Unit B3


Written information about a client that is kept in her chart and is part of the record of care. Documentation about a client needs to be accurate, complete, and legible. BCND 1000 Unit D1

Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)

An order that states that if a person's breathing or heart stops, he does not want anyone to start CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation). If a client has a DNR order and you find him unconscious and not breathing, you should not attempt CPR. BCND 1000 Unit D1

Do not resuscitate order

A legal document that indicates the client has made an informed decision and does not want heroic measures to be taken to maintain life, such as artificial respiration or CPR. A physician must discuss the do not resuscitate order with the client before she agrees to this, to ensure the client understands what this document means and to answer any questions. SCSF 1000 Unit F3


Present, but inactive. Some diseases will lie dormant in the body, but become active under the right conditions. FOCC 1000 Unit C3


The strength and amount of medication that is to be given at one time or during specific periods of time. It is important for the HCA to measure out the exact dose of a medication that is to be given when preparing it for administration. SCAE 1000 Unit E6


A container that is used to hold a certain amount of medication to be taken over a specific period of time. Dossettes can hold medication for one day to as many as fourteen days, allowing a client to keep track of when to take his medications. SCAE 1000 Unit E6

Down Syndrome

A genetic condition resulting in cognitive disabilities ranging from mild to moderate, heart and respiratory problems, lowered resistance to disease, and increased chance of developing Alzheimer disease as an adult. A person born with Down syndrome will have a small nose, small hands and feet, and wide-set eyes. SCSF 1000 unit F4

Down syndrome 1

A genetic syndrome causing developmental disabilities. As a person with Down syndrome ages she may experience medical complications such as visual and hearing loss, epilepsy, and early onset of dementia. SCSF 1000 Unit F1

Drainable pouch

An ostomy pouch that is open on one end, allowing the contents to be drained out when it becomes one-third full. The drainable pouch must have its open end closed with a clamp, so the contents do not leak out. SCAE 1000 Unit E1

Drainage system(s)

The method and equipment used to collect fluid from the body. There are different types of drainage systems used to collect urine from the bladder, including an indwelling catheter, a condom catheter, and a suprapubic catheter. SCAE 1000 Unit E1


A sense of fear and anxiety. In some cultures, death is treated with dread and fear. SCSF 1000 Unit F3

Dress code

The expectations of an employer regarding the clothing and grooming of employees. Every agency or employer has a dress code the employees must follow. RRHB 1000 Unit B2

Drip chamber

Part of the connecting tubing that allows fluid in a bag to drip into a hollow cylinder and then down into the tubing. The drip chamber allows the nurse to visually see the rate of flow of a fluid into the tubing. SCAE 1000 Unit E5


To hang down or sag. As we age, our eyelids droop due to loss of elasticity. FOCC 1000 Unit C3

Droplet transmission

Microorganisms can be found in a droplet from the mouth or nose and may spread when a person is talking, coughing, or sneezing. This droplet can enter another person through their respiratory tract or the mucous membranes of the mouth or nose. The common cold is transmitted to others by droplet transmission. PCCA 1000 Unit A2


A substance made with chemicals that have an effect on the body's functioning. Each drug is created to affect a certain body system. Some must be purchased with a prescription, while others may be purchased over-the-counter, or off a store shelf. SCAE 1000 Unit E6

Drug toxicity

Refers to harming or poisoning the body through drug use. Drug toxicity can be caused by self-medicating with drugs or misusing prescribed or over-the-counter drugs. SCSF 1000 Unit F1

Duodenal ulcer/ulcers

Open sores on the lining of the duodenum, which is part of the small intestine. It is now thought that microorganisms (Helicobacter pylori) play an important role in causing duodenal ulcers. FOCC 1000 Unit C4

Duoderm thick

A self-adhesive barrier that absorbs fluid from a skin wound. Duoderm thick is commonly applied to skin wounds on the coccyx area, or over any other pressure area. SCAE 1000 Unit E4

Duoderm thin

A self-adhesive opaque barrier similar to a transparent dressing. Duoderm thin is used to protect a minor open skin area as it heals. SCAE 1000 Unit E4


The amount of time something will take, or the length of time it will last. The duration of survival after a diagnosis of a dementia will vary, depending on the type of dementia and the individual affected. SCSF 1000 Unit F2


Shadowed or shaded by a darker colour. When someone is feeling ill they may have a dusky hue to their skin tone. FOCC 1000 Unit C2


The effect each person in a support system has on the other members, including the roles and responsibilities of each member within the system. The health-care team should respect the dynamics of a client's support system. FOCC 1000 Unit C5


A disorder that causes speech to be weak, slow, and uncoordinated, resulting in words which are slurred and difficult to understand. Dysarthria is caused by damage to areas involved in coordinating muscle movements of the mouth necessary for speech. FOCC 1000 Unit C5


Difficulty swallowing. Clients with dysphagia may require Enteral nutrition to get the calories and nutrition to stay healthy. SCAE 1000 Unit E5


Difficulty breathing. Dyspnea is a symptom of many lung diseases. BCND 1000 Unit D1

See shortness of breath. FOCC 1000 Unit C4