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NorQuest Health Dictionary

A research guide focused on medical terminology

Macular degeneration

A progressive eye disease that causes loss of vision, starting in the centre of the eye and progressing outward. One type of macular degeneration is inherited and another type is age-related, affecting people over 50. FOCC 1000 Unit C5


The inability of the small intestines to absorb nutrients from the intestines into the blood. Malabsorption resulting from disease of the gastrointestinal tract may cause diarrhea. SCAE 1000 Unit E5

Male reproductive system

The male organs necessary to produce hormones and fertilize a female egg. They include the testes and penis. The male reproductive system is designed to supply sperm to fertilize a female egg. FOCC 1000 Unit C2


An action that is intended to cause harm to another person. Falsely reporting abuse against a co-worker is a malicious act. PCCA 1000 Unit A4


A cancerous condition that is a threat to life. Malignant cells in the body spread to other sites and continue to grow. FOCC 1000 Unit C4

Malignant tumour

A tumour that contains cancerous cells. Malignant tumours grow and spread, invading healthy body tissue and causing damage to this tissue. FOCC 1000 Unit C4


A disorder that is caused by the body not receiving the necessary nutrients to maintain health. Malnutrition is the result of a person not getting enough food or enough of the right types of food to meet the body's needs. BCND 1000 Unit D7


The gauge of the blood pressure machine that measures blood pressure. The manometer will indicate the client's systolic and diastolic blood pressure. SCAE 1000 Unit E3

Manual lift

One or two caregivers supporting the client's weight while moving him from one place to another. Check your agency's policies and procedures to find out if manual lifts are allowed in the facility. BCND 1000 Unit D2


Cause damage. Scrubbing an area with abrasive cleaners and cloths can mar the surface of an object. SCSF 1000 Unit F5

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Basic human needs that build upon one another, with physical needs being regarded as necessary for survival. The other needs in the hierarchy are basic psychosocial needs. Each level of need must be met to some degree before moving on to the next level of need in the hierarchy. Maslow's hierarchy of needs, listed in order from the bottom of the pyramid up, is physical, safety and security, social, self-esteem, and self-fulfillment. FOCC 1000 Unit C1


The physical size or volume of something. Bone mass and muscle mass both decrease in the older adult. FOCC 1000 Unit C3


The completion of the growing process; fully developed. Maturation happens in early adulthood and the aging process then begins. FOCC 1000 Unit C3

Mechanical lift

A lift performed with a mechanical device that supports the full weight of the client while moving her from one place to another. It is important for the HCA know how to use safely a mechanical lift in the facility. BCND 1000 Unit D2


A system, such as a group of laws, that works for one reason, such as legal protection of the HCA. It is important to know which mechanisms are in place to protect the HCA legally. RRHB 1000 Unit B2


Name given to the first stools a newborn has, which are of a dark, tarry, and sticky consistency. Meconium is formed in the bowel of a fetus before birth and is expelled as stool shortly after birth. SCSF 1000 unit F4

Medical asepsis (clean technique)

A set of practices that destroys and prevents the spread of harmful microorganisms; objects are considered clean, but not sterile. Medical asepsis helps destroy and prevent the spread of harmful microorganisms. PCCA 1000 Unit A2

Medical terminology

Commonly used words and terms related to health care. Medical terminology provides the health-care team a way of communicating important information so everyone will understand. BCND 1000 Unit D1

Medication abuse/medication misuse

Misuse, accidentally or intentionally, of medications. Medication abuse or misuse in the older adult is sometimes the result of having different physicians prescribing medications at one time, not knowing the proper way to take medications, or knowingly misusing medications. SCSF 1000 Unit F1

Medication Administration Record (MAR)

A form used for keeping a record of medications given to a client. The medication administration record may vary among agencies, so the HCA must become familiar with this document and the procedure for recording information. SCAE 1000 Unit E6

Medication cup

A small plastic or paper container with graduated measurements, used to measure and administer oral medications. Paper medication cups are used for tablets and capsules, the plastic medication cups are used for liquids. SCAE 1000 Unit E6

Medication label

The label glued onto the back of a Dosette container,giving important information. Information on a medication label includes client name, name of medications, dosage, number of tablets to be given at each prescribed time, client allergies, and prescribing doctor's name. SCAE 1000 Unit E6


Three layers of membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. The meninges layers are separated by cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). FOCC 1000 Unit C2


The curved upper surface of liquid oral medication seen when poured into a measuring device. The dose of a liquid medication is measured at the bottom of the meniscus, not at the sides. SCAE 1000 Unit E6


The stage in a woman's life at which hormonal changes occur and the menstrual cycle stops. Menopause usually occurs during middle adult life because hormonal levels decrease. FOCC 1000 Unit C3

Menstrual cycle

A regular cycle of the female body involving the uterus and ovaries preparing for fertilization of an egg. If fertilization does not occur, shedding the blood-rich lining of the uterus completes the menstrual cycle. FOCC 1000 Unit C2

Menstruation/menstrual period

Part of the menstrual cycle during which the lining of the uterus is shed, resulting in tissue and blood being discharged through the vagina. Menstruation occurs when an egg released by the ovaries is not fertilized or could not become implanted in the uterus. FOCC 1000 Unit C2

Mental health

Refers to the ability to deal effectively with whatever situations life presents. People who have mental health have a sense of well-being and enjoy life to the fullest. SCSF 1000 Unit F1

Mental health condition

Problems, disorders, or illnesses that affect how a person feels about herself, how she behaves, and her ability to deal effectively with everyday life. Mental health conditions can be cause by social factors, biological conditions, psychological conditions, and genetics. SCSF 1000 Unit F1

Mentally challenged/Developmentally delayed

A person with decreased cognitive abilities that affect learning, understanding, and language skills. There are many assisted living facilities in which HCAs can assist mentally challenged clients. FOCC 1000 Unit C5


A metal that stays liquid at room temperature. Mercury is used in some types of thermometers and in a mercury sphygmomanometer. SCAE 1000 Unit E3

Mercury sphygmomanometer

Has a gauge that allows you to see the mercury moving during the blood pressure reading. The blood pressure is determined based on numerical measurements in relation to the level of mercury. When using a mercury sphygmomanometer the caregiver must also listen to the flow of blood using a stethoscope. SCAE 1000 Unit E3


The information that is passed on by one person (the sender), to another person (the receiver). A message delivered slowly and clearly is more likely to be understood by the receiver. PCCA 1000 Unit A1

Metabolism/metabolic rate

Activities in the body that create heat and energy for cells to live. Hormones released from the thyroid gland affect the body's level of metabolism. FOCC 1000 Unit C2


To spread. A cancerous tumour that has spread to other areas of the body is said to have metastasized. FOCC 1000 Unit C4

Metred-dose inhaler (MDI)

Provides a single dose of inhalation medication each time it is activated. The metred-dose inhaler must be shaken well before each use. SCAE 1000 Unit E6

Metric system

A system used for measuring weight, length, and volume using grams, metres, and litres. As an HCA, you will need to be able to change weight from pounds into kilograms and length (height) from feet and inches into centimetres. BCND 1000 Unit D1

Microgram (mcg)

A metric measurement of weights less than a milligram. Some medication doses are ordered in micrograms (mcg). SCAE 1000 Unit E6


Usually a one-celled living organism that can be seen only through a microscope; not visible to the eye. Microorganisms can be either harmful or harmless to humans. PCCA 1000 Unit A2


To expel urine from the body; to void. Micturate is a medical term used when discussing the urinary system. BCND 1000 Unit D1

Middle ear

Part of the ear that sends sound waves, in the form of physical vibrations, to the inner ear. The middle ear has a chain of three bones connected to the eardrum. FOCC 1000 Unit C2

Midstream urine specimen (MSU)

A special kind of specimen that is free from contamination. The sample is done by catching a small amount of urine after the client begins to void, but before the client stops voiding. A sterile specimen container is always used to collect a midstream urine specimen and careful washing of the genital area is required before the client voids. SCAE 1000 Unit E1


Refers to movement from one area to another. Distension, cramping, pain, nausea, or vomiting may suggest the feeding tube has migrated to a different area of the gastrointestinal tract. SCAE 1000 Unit E5


Small hard white bumps on a newborn's face that may look like pimples. Milia is common on newborns and will clear up without treatment after a few weeks. SCSF 1000 unit F4

Military time/24-hour clock

A way of keeping time for a 24-hour day, starting at midnight and continuing for 24 hours until midnight the next day, when the 24 hour cycle begins again. The 24-hour clock begins at 0000 hours and ends at 2400 hours, reducing confusion between a.m. and p.m. BCND 1000 Unit D1

Millilitre (ml)

A metric measurement of volumes less than a litre. Liquid medication doses are often ordered in millilitres (ml). SCAE 1000 Unit E6

Millilitres (ml)

A metric measurement used to measure fluids. The average daily intake of fluids each day should be between 1500-2000 millilitres (ml). BCND 1000 Unit D1


Inorganic substances found in foods that are needed by the body to maintain health. Minerals are needed only in small amounts, as large amounts can be toxic to the body. SCSF 1000 Unit F5


To make the least of, or reduce to the lowest level. Minimizing someone's concerns by using a standard phrase will cause the client to avoid discussing the concerns with you. PCCA 1000 Unit A1


A visible suspension in the air of droplets of liquid. When administering nebulization medications, the mist should be visible to the naked eye before placing the mask on the client's face. SCAE 1000 Unit E6


To fold the sheets at the end of the bed under the top mattress at a right angle. The HCA must mitre the corners of the sheets at the bottom of the bed when tucking the sheets under the mattress. PCCA 1000 Unit A3

Mixed non-fluent aphasia

Similar to Broca's aphasia (the expression of language is greatly impaired), but it also impairs the ability to understand speech and to read. People affected by mixed non-fluent aphasia have difficulty in expressing language and understanding language. FOCC 1000 Unit C5


The ability to move oneself from one place to another. A client who has limited mobility may require assistance from the HCA. BCND 1000 Unit D2

Mobility aids/Ambulation aids

Devices used to assist a client to ambulate when the ability to balance, coordinate movement, or weight-bear is reduced. Mobility aids include canes, walkers, and crutches. BCND 1000 Unit D2

Morning care/am care

Bathing and skin care given to a client when she first wakes up in the morning. Morning care includes a partial bed bath, mouth, skin and hair care, toileting, dressing, and repositioning of the client. BCND 1000 Unit D4

Moro reflex

If an infant is startled, he will fold his legs toward his body and fold his arms toward his chest. The Moro reflex is a common reflex in a newborn. SCSF 1000 unit F4


An irregular discoloration to an area of the skin, which may appear as a bluish-red or purplish area. If skin that looks mottled is observed, this is an abnormal finding and should be reported. FOCC 1000 Unit C2


The emotions experienced after a loved one passes away. If a client who has passed away lived in a continuing-care facility the other clients and staff will mourn. SCSF 1000 Unit F3


A device that is placed between the client's teeth and lips, so she can breathe the mist of the nebulization medication into her lungs. The HCA should rinse the mouthpiece with water and place it on a clean paper towel to dry until the next use. SCAE 1000 Unit E6

Mucous membrane

Smooth lining found on parts of the body such as the respiratory tract and the digestive tract, which produces a fluid called mucus. The mouth is lined with a mucous membrane that produces saliva. PCCA 1000 Unit A2


A thick liquid substance produced in some areas of the body, such as the respiratory and digestive systems. Mucus is formed to protect and lubricate body parts. FOCC 1000 Unit C2


More than one culture within a setting, such as a nation or workplace. HCAs work in a multicultural environment and will care for clients of different cultures and who speak different languages. FOCC 1000 Unit C5

Multi-disciplinary team

A group of health-care providers working together to meet the needs and goals of a client. The team can include health-care professionals, support workers, dietary and housekeeping personnel, therapists, family, volunteers, and so on. Every client has their own multi-disciplinary team including health-care providers from various specialties. RRHB 1000 Unit B1

Multiple loss

Occurs when one loss results in several other losses occurring within a short time span. The loss of a spouse can result in multiple losses including changes to financial security, social interactions, and living accommodations. SCSF 1000 Unit F1

Multiple sclerosis (MS)

Central nervous system condition caused by the immune system attacking the myelin sheath of nerves, resulting in damage to the myelin. MS is a progressive disease that results in fatigue, lack of muscle control, and vision and memory problems. FOCC 1000 Unit C4


Tissue that can lengthen or shorten, causing the movement of a part of the body or movement of an organ. Some muscles move voluntarily, such as ones controlling the arms and legs, while others move involuntarily, such as those found in the heart and intestines. FOCC 1000 Unit C2

Muscle tissue

A group of cells that contract and relax, allowing the body to move. Muscle tissue moves bones voluntarily and organs, such as the heart, involuntarily. FOCC 1000 Unit C2

Muscle tone

The condition or fitness of muscles. The more conditioned the muscles the firmer they are. Mobility is important for maintaining muscle tone. BCND 1000 Unit D2

Muscular dystrophy (MD)

A group of conditions caused by a defect in a specific gene. It causes progressive wasting and deterioration of muscle tissue. Since the condition is caused by a defect in a specific gene, MD can be inherited. FOCC 1000 Unit C4

Musculoskeletal system

The skeleton (bones, ligaments, joints, tendons, and cartilage) and muscles of the body. Two functions of the musculoskeletal system are to provide a shape to the body and to allow the body to move. FOCC 1000 Unit C2


Not able to speak. A mute client may use sign language to communicate to others. FOCC 1000 Unit C5


When both people benefit by giving and receiving something from a relationship. Example: Jane gets a lot of satisfaction from providing needed assistance to her client, so both benefit from the relationship. PCCA 1000 Unit A1

Myelin/myelin sheath

A white protective covering on nerves. It insulates the nerves and allows impulses to be transmitted smoothly from one nerve cell to another. Myelin increases the speed at which messages can travel between nerve cells. FOCC 1000 Unit C2

Myocardial infarct (MI)/Cardiac arrest

Also know as heart attack. The blood supply to part of the heart muscle is stopped or mostly cut off and the affected muscle tissue dies because of lack of oxygen. A myocardial infarct can result in permanent damage to the heart muscle or death of the individual. FOCC 1000 Unit C4


A story passed on from person to person or generation to generation that is not supported by facts. Myths and incorrect information influence attitudes about the elderly. FOCC 1000 Unit C3