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NorQuest Health Dictionary

A research guide focused on medical terminology

P.A.S.S. or PASS

An acronym used to remember how to work a fire extinguisher. 'P' is for pull the pin, 'A' is for aim the nozzle at the base of the fire, 'S' is for squeeze or pump the handle, and 'S' is for sweep the extinguisher from side to side at the base of the fire. RRHB 1000 Unit B2


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


The breaking down of an activity into smaller tasks with enough assistance and rest periods that the client can complete the activity and not be exhausted. Pacing is important when assisting a client with COPD. FOCC 1000 Unit C4


Providing personal support services to a person with an incurable condition, so they will be comfortable. Palliation can be provided to anyone with a chronic illness, not only to those with a terminal illness. RRHB 1000 Unit B1

Palliative care/Palliation

Providing basic care and support to the client and family at the end stage of the life cycle, including supporting the family and caring for the body after death. Palliative care provides pain control for the client and comfort measures for both the client and family. SCSF 1000 Unit F3


Paleness of the skin. Signs of distress include shallow, rapid breathing, pallor, and clammy skin. BCND 1000 Unit D2

Palpable mass

A mass in the body that can be felt using touch. A palpable hard mass in the abdominal area is an abnormal observation that needs to be reported. FOCC 1000 Unit C2


A gland near the stomach that releases digestive substances and hormones such as insulin. The pancreas regulates the level of sugar in blood by producing and releasing insulin. FOCC 1000 Unit C2


The inability to move part of the body due to injury of the nerves in the area. Paralysis is a permanent impairment because the injured nerves cannot be replaced nor be completely repaired by the body. BCND 1000 Unit D1.

Loss of sensation and movement of a part of the body. Paralysis is an abnormal observation of the nervous system. FOCC 1000 Unit C2


A disorder of the mind that causes suspicion and mistrust towards others. If a client expresses paranoia, medicine should not be hidden in the client's food as this will increase his mistrust of others. BCND 1000 Unit D7


A mental condition that causes the affected person to feel fearful and believe others are watching him or wanting to harm him. Sensory problems can be a risk to mental health because they can cause extreme emotions such as paranoia. SCSF 1000 Unit F1


Restating the sender's message in your own words; allows you to clarify that you understood the message being sent. Paraphrasing is useful because it shows that you are actively listening. PCCA 1000 Unit A1


A mental health condition causing a person to have false beliefs and ideas (delusions) that others want to harm or persecute her. Paraphrenia is a psychiatric condition that is diagnosed and treated by a health-care professional. SCSF 1000 Unit F1


Loss of sensation and motor movements to the lower half of the body. Paraplegia can be caused by disease or injury. FOCC 1000 Unit C4


An organism that lives on a host without contributing to the host's survival. Fleas are parasites that live on the surface of their host. PCCA 1000 Unit A2

Parkinson's disease

A neurological disease affecting a person's ability to begin or carry out smooth motor movements. Parkinson's disease is caused by death of cells in the part of the brain that produces a chemical called dopamine, which assists nerves to communicate with each other. FOCC 1000 Unit C4

Partial bed bath

A bath that includes washing the face, ears, neck, hands, under breasts (females) and skin folds, axillas, perineal area, back, and buttocks. A partial bed bath is done each day, except on bath day, to keep the client's skin clean and dry. BCND 1000 Unit D4


If you allow other people's needs to be considered before your own needs, and if you do not express your needs, you are being passive. Passive people usually want to avoid conflict and will do what others want instead of doing what they want. RRHB 1000 Unit B3

Passive exercises

Movements that are performed on a client by the caregiver. The client does not move his own joints. Passive ROM exercises keep a client's joints moveable and prevent contractures. BCND 1000 Unit D2


A sticky consistency, like glue. Soft, pasty stools are formed in the transverse colon. SCAE 1000 Unit E1

Pathogen/pathogen (source)

Microorganisms capable of causing sickness or infection. To cause an infection, pathogens need a route of transmission and a host. PCCA 1000 Unit A2

Pathogenic microorganisms

See Pathogens. SCAE 1000 Unit E1

Pathological fractures

Fractures that occur when a bone that was already weakened due to disease breaks easily, without having an injury or fall. Pathological fractures can occur when a client has a disease that weakens the bone and the limbs are handled too roughly. FOCC 1000 Unit C4


The ability to wait without complaining or becoming frustrated. Patience is an important quality for an HCA to demonstrate. RRHB 1000 Unit B2


The term used to refer to people in an acute-care facility. In the hospital setting, a patient is someone receiving medical treatment. RRHB 1000 Unit B1


To act in a superior way towards another. Never act in a patronizing way towards a client, whether or not she has a cognitive impairment. SCSF 1000 Unit F2


To "talk down" to a person as though you were superior to that person. If you talk to a client as if she were a child, you are demonstrating a patronizing attitude. PCCA 1000 Unit A4

Pattern of respiration/pattern of breathing

Describes the number of respirations (rate) and the rhythm of respirations in one full minute. When observing a client from head-to-toe, it is important to observe her pattern of respiration. SCAE 1000 Unit E3


A male reproductive organ that allows sperm and urine to be released from the body. During sexual intercourse only sperm is released from the penis; urine cannot pass through. FOCC 1000 Unit C2

People First

A philosophy of living developed for individuals with disabilities including developmental disabilities. One of the goals of "People First" is to help people with disabilities live in a world that does not judge them by their disability. SCSF 1000 Unit F1


The ability to interpret and understand information or stimuli. As we age, colour perception becomes more difficult. FOCC 1000 Unit C3


The ability of the brain to use memory to interpret stimuli received outside the body. A client who has had a stroke may have perceptual problems such as not being able to identify an object by looking at it. FOCC 1000 Unit C4


A hole that has formed in an area where no hole should be. The feeding tube can cause a perforation of the gastrointestinal tract, allowing its contents to leak out. SCAE 1000 Unit E5

Perineal care/ Peri-care

The procedure of washing the genital and anal areas of the body. Standard precautions are used when providing perineal care, so gloves must be worn. BCND 1000 Unit D3

Peripheral blood vessels

Blood vessels near the surface of the skin. Performing a back rub promotes peripheral circulation to the area being massaged. BCND 1000 Unit D4

Peripheral nervous system

Nerves in the body that are outside the brain and spinal cord. The peripheral nervous system consists of the somatic nervous system and the autonomic nervous system. FOCC 1000 Unit C2

Peripheral vascular disease (PVD)

Circulatory problems caused by reduced blood flow through the blood vessels of the extremities, especially the legs. PVD causes symptoms such as cold and pale extremities, edema of legs and feet, and poor healing. FOCC 1000 Unit C4

Peripheral vision

The ability to see things outside of the central area of vision. Macular degeneration causes loss of vision starting in the centre of the eye and moving towards the peripheral vision. BCND 1000 Unit D1


A coordinated, wave-like movement of muscle to move something in one direction. The esophagus and intestines both use peristalsis to move matter through the digestive system. FOCC 1000 Unit C2

Permanent urinary diversion

A surgical procedure to drain urine through an opening in the abdominal wall. A permanent urinary diversion is performed when urine cannot collect in the bladder as normal. There are two main types of permanent urinary diversions: ileal conduit and ureterostomy. SCAE 1000 Unit E1


To bother, annoy, mistreat, or cause suffering to another. Clients who feel they are being persecuted when they are not, may be suffering from paranoia. SCSF 1000 Unit F1

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

Clothing and devices that are worn to protect a person when handling items that could cause harm. Personal protective equipment used when handling hot food dishes include heat resistant gloves and long sleeves. SCSF 1000 Unit F5


The qualities that make each person a unique individual. Each individual has a sense of who they are; this is also known as their personhood. FOCC 1000 Unit C1


To sweat. Perspiration should be removed from a client's skin because it may irritate the skin and cause odour. BCND 1000 Unit D4


Important to the task or situation. Before giving care to a client, gather all pertinent information about the care needs of the client. BCND 1000 Unit D1

The most important and meaningful information. You must learn to communicate pertinent client information to the health-care team so the client will receive proper care. PCCA 1000 Unit A1

Important to the present situation. Before an HCA administers a medication to a client, she must first find out any pertinent information such as allergies and medical conditions that could make the medication harmful. SCAE 1000 Unit E6


A massaging motion using the fingertips and thumbs to gently squeeze the soft tissue together. Petrissage is done to the shoulder area during a back rub. BCND 1000 Unit D4


The throat. The pharynx is between the mouth and the esophagus. FOCC 1000 Unit C2

Phenylketonurea (PKU)

A hereditary disorder caused by the inability of the body to process a specific amino acid. This amino acid then accumulates in the body, becoming toxic and causing damage to the brain. If PKU is found early in life, it can be treated using a special diet that will help prevent damage to the brain. SCSF 1000 unit F4


A condition in which the eyes are sensitive to the light. A client with photophobia will not want to sit in a brightly lit room or a sunroom. SCAE 1000 Unit E6

Physical needs

Basic needs humans must meet to survive. Maslow includes water, food, air, touch, and reproduction as basic physical needs required for survival. FOCC 1000 Unit C1

Physical restraint

A physical device used to control a person's actions or movements. Examples include wheelchair seatbelts, bed rails, and geriatric chairs. Physical restraints must be removed on a regular basis so the client can move and attend to bodily needs. RRHB 1000 Unit B2

Physical therapist

A professional who assists the client with regaining movement, such as walking and positioning. Physical therapists are often part of a client's support team. RRHB 1000 Unit B3

Physical wellness

Meeting the body's physical needs. Maintaining physical wellness means taking active measures to avoid getting sick or injured. RRHB 1000 Unit B1


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

Pituitary gland

A small gland located in the brain that is responsible for regulating different hormone levels in the body. The pituitary gland is also known as the 'master gland' of the body. FOCC 1000 Unit C2


To turn on one spot by rotating the body without moving the feet. When pivot-turning a client, the HCA rotates the client's body until it is aligned with the chair or bed she is being transferred to. BCND 1000 Unit D2

Pivot transfer

A transfer in which the HCA assists a client to stand, and then turns the client without the client moving his feet. A pivot transfer is used when the client can bear some weight, but cannot walk. BCND 1000 Unit D2


The liquid part of the blood in which the red cells, white cells, and platelets are found. Plasma is made up mainly of water and allows the movement of blood cells through the blood vessels. FOCC 1000 Unit C2


Material in the blood that helps the blood to clot. Platelets help the blood to clot, preventing the loss of blood from a wound or cut. FOCC 1000 Unit C2


An infection in the lungs that leads to fluid accumulating in the air sacs (alveoli), interfering with air exchange. Can be caused by virus, bacteria, immobility, or accidental inhalation of food or fluids. Symptoms of pneumonia include cough, chest pain, fever, and shortness or breath. FOCC 1000 Unit C4


A doctor who specializes in care and treatment of the feet. Elderly clients with thick, hard toenails need to have them trimmed by a podiatrist. BCND 1000 Unit D5


A statement of what an agency expects to be done. A policy sets the standards of care, safety, and conduct the agency expects from its employees. RRHB 1000 Unit B2


Using manners in a socially acceptable way. Clients will think you are polite if you use the words "please' and "thank you". PCCA 1000 Unit A1


The use of more than one drug. This practice has the potential of causing an interaction between the drugs. Many older adults practise polypharmacy and must be made aware of negative side effects that may occur. RRHB 1000 Unit B2


Frequent urination (voiding). Polyuria is one of several symptoms that may point to undiagnosed diabetes. BCND 1000 Unit D1


To give thought to. In some cultures death is an opportunity to ponder and reflect. SCSF 1000 Unit F3


Insured Canadians must continue to be covered for medical services if they travel or move within Canada, or if they travel outside of Canada. Portability is one of the five criteria outlined in the Canada Health Act. RRHB 1000 Unit B1

Portable oxygen cylinders

Small oxygen cylinders with a shoulder strap, so the client can ambulate with the cylinder. Portable oxygen cylinders must be refilled from a large oxygen container. SCAE 1000 Unit E2

Positional moulding

The process of changing the shape of an infant's skull. This can happen because the newborn's skull bones are soft and can change shape when constant pressure is applied to only one area. Positional moulding may occur if the infant's caregivers do not know it is important to vary the infant's head position throughout the day. SCSF 1000 unit F4

Positioning aids

Items used to support the body, keep it in alignment, and relieve muscle discomfort. Includes pillows, rolled blankets, towels, and foam pads. Physiotherapists may use specific positioning aids for a client and the HCA must know how to use the aids properly. PCCA 1000 Unit A3


Towards, or on the back of, the body. The term posterior can be used when describing where an injury is on the body. BCND 1000 Unit D1

Postpartum blues

A condition that may occur after giving birth and that may last a few days or a few weeks, caused by hormonal changes in the body. Symptoms of postpartum blues are feelings of sadness, irritability, mood swings, tiredness, and episodes of crying. SCSF 1000 unit F4

Postpartum depression

A serious form of depression that may occur after giving birth and that may appear up to one year after giving birth. Postpartum depression may include symptoms such as sleep problems, disinterest in others, difficulty coping with everyday tasks, inability to concentrate, and always feeling tired. SCSF 1000 unit F4

Postpartum psychosis

A rare form of postpartum depression that causes a mother to disconnect from reality and be at risk for harming herself or her infant. A mother suffering from postpartum psychosis will need professional help and may need to be hospitalized. SCSF 1000 unit F4

Post-polio syndrome

A condition that only affects polio survivors and occurs years after the initial infection. This syndrome weakens the muscles that were originally affected by the polio virus. Post-polio syndrome symptoms include fatigue and continuing weakening of affected muscles. FOCC 1000 Unit C4


The possibility that something will happen or become a reality. One role of the HCA is to identify potential risks for illness or injury and take steps to prevent them. RRHB 1000 Unit B2

Pouch or ostomy pouch

The part of the ostomy appliance that collects drainage from the stoma. Pouches collect body wastes and prevent irritation to the skin around the stoma. SCAE 1000 Unit E1

PPICA or Protection for Persons in Care Act

This is an Alberta Act that ensures the safety of people who receive care in Alberta. The PPICA is designed to stop or prevent abuse of people who live in or receive services from hospitals, community care, continuing care, group homes, or facilities. PCCA 1000 Unit A4


To give positive feedback and approval. When assisting a client with dementia, use praise to recognize and encourage the client's efforts. SCSF 1000 Unit F2


The safeguards that should be taken when a medication is prepared and administered. When preparing and administering a medication to a client, the HCA must follow all precautions listed. SCAE 1000 Unit E6


Actions or measures that are taken to reduce the risk of damage or injury. Special precaution must be used when changing a catheter from a urinary drainage bag to a leg bag. SCAE 1000 Unit E1


Knowing what will happen under certain circumstances. HCAs care for clients who are stable and for whom outcomes are predictable. RRHB 1000 Unit B1

Predictable outcomes

Knowing how a person will react to care and activities under certain circumstances. HCAs work with stable clients with predictable outcomes doing client-specific care activities. SCAE 1000 Unit E1


To have a tendency to become or to be susceptible to something. An opening in the skin can predispose a client to infection. PCCA 1000 Unit A3


Liking something better; one's first choice of how something should be done. Caregivers must ensure they know their client's preferences to meet her physical and emotional comfort. PCCA 1000 Unit A3


An opinion about someone or something that has been formed beforehand, without supporting evidence or facts. A feeling of prejudice about a client can result in the client not receiving the care he deserves. PCCA 1000 Unit A4


Age-related changes to the structures of the eye that affect vision. Presbyopia causes close-up vision to become blurred and results in difficulty reading. FOCC 1000 Unit C5

Prescribed rate of flow/flow rate

Measured in litres of oxygen released in one minute (l/min.), this is the amount of oxygen the doctor has ordered for the individual client. If the prescribed rate of flow is not correct you must report this immediately to your supervisor. SCAE 1000 Unit E2

Prescription label

A label placed on all prescription medications that has important information such as name and dosage of drug, directions for use, pharmacy information, prescribing doctor, and patient name. It is important to check the prescription label to ensure the medication is prescribed to the person for whom you are preparing it. SCAE 1000 Unit E6

Prescription medication

Medication a doctor has prescribed to an individual based on an assessment of the condition and health needs of the individual. Prescription medications are specific for the individual and should never be shared with other people. SCAE 1000 Unit E6

Pressure sore (bed sore)

An open area in the skin caused by pressure; also referred to as decubitus ulcers, or pressure ulcers. It is important to prevent pressure sores from developing on clients with limited mobility. PCCA 1000 Unit A3


To keep from happening, or to stop the progress of something. Prevention of a disease is more cost effective than treating a disease. RRHB 1000 Unit B1

Primary progressive aphasia

A condition that is progressive and affects only the ability to speak. Over time this skill is completely lost. People with primary progressive aphasia continue to understand language, but lose the ability to speak. FOCC 1000 Unit C5


The most important goals or tasks that must be met or completed before other less important goals or tasks. HCAs must be able to prioritize the tasks based on information in the care plan. RRHB 1000 Unit B3

PRN medication

A medication that is given 'as needed', such as a pain medication. The HCA can only give a PRN medication when a competent client requests it or after a nurse has assessed the client and given direction to the HCA. SCAE 1000 Unit E6

Probe cover

A one-time use, disposable cover that is placed over the end of a tympanic thermometer that is then placed into the client's ear. A clean, unused probe cover is used each time a tympanic temperature is taken and then it is disposed of in a regular garbage container. SCAE 1000 Unit E3


A situation that has not been planned or is not desired. Some problems have simple solutions, while others take more effort to resolve. RRHB 1000 Unit B3

Problem-solving process

A six-step system that can be used to resolve a problem effectively. The six steps in the problem-solving process are: defining the problem, suggesting solutions, choosing a solution, developing an action plan, implementing the plan, and evaluating the plan. RRHB 1000 Unit B3


Step-by-step directions for how a policy should be put into action. If you are unsure of the steps required for a procedure, check the Policy and Procedure Manual. RRHB 1000 Unit B2


Sexual activity that results in the creation of a baby. We have reproductive organs so procreation can occur. FOCC 1000 Unit C2

Productive cough

A cough that is accompanied by mucous discharge from the lungs. A productive cough helps to clear out mucus that has formed in the lungs. BCND 1000 Unit D1


To have the knowledge or be skilled at something. The more you practice effective communication, the more proficient you will become at communicating. PCCA 1000 Unit A1


A large amount. Profuse bleeding can cause death if too much blood is lost. BCND 1000 Unit D1


Irreversible and worsening over time. Progressive neurological conditions include MS, Huntington's disease, Alzheimer disease, and vascular dementia. SCSF 1000 Unit F2

Progress notes

Used by various health-care disciplines to document client care given and the outcome of this care. An HCA would use progress notes after giving a PRN medication to record the reason why the medication was given, the result of the medication, and the client response to the medication. SCAE 1000 Unit E6


Not allowed, or forbidden. Each agency will have their own policies and procedures regarding whether the HCA is allowed to administer, or is prohibited from administering, medications. SCAE 1000 Unit E6

Prolapsed uterus

Sagging of the uterus into the vagina or even outside the vagina. A prolapsed uterus will get worse over time if it is not treated. FOCC 1000 Unit C4


Occuring for a long period of time. Prolonged sadness, anger, and inability to cope with life are some signs of a mental health condition in an adult. SCSF 1000 Unit F1


Easily seen or occuring more often. Hair loss in the older adult is more prominent in men than women. FOCC 1000 Unit C3


Quick. Prompt healing of scrapes occurs in healthy individuals. FOCC 1000 Unit C2


To encourage by using cues or reminders. A client may be able to feed himself independently with only some prompting from the caregiver. BCND 1000 Unit D7

Prone position

Lying on one's stomach in bed. Most older people cannot tolerate lying in the prone position for very long. PCCA 1000 Unit A3

Proprietary medication

A medication that is protected by a patent or trademark. Advil is a proprietary medication that can be purchased over-the-counter to relieve inflammation and pain. SCAE 1000 Unit E6

Pros and cons

The positive and negative aspects. When problem-solving, weigh the pros and cons to determine which solution will work best. SCSF 1000 Unit F6

Prostate gland

Found below the bladder in a male, the prostate is the gland that produces a fluid that combines with sperm. The prostate gland in older men often becomes larger and interferes with urination. FOCC 1000 Unit C2


A man-made replacement for a body part that is missing or that is not functioning properly. Examples of prostheses include artificial limbs, dentures, hearing aids, splints, or glasses. BCND 1000 Unit D1

Protective paste/protective powder

See Karaya. SCAE 1000 Unit E1


Basic chemicals (amino acids) found in many foods that are essential for growth and functioning of the body. Protein is supplied to the body in foods such as meat, fish, eggs, nuts and grains, and beans. SCSF 1000 Unit F5


A detailed set of actions to be carried out in a specific order. Health care aides need to learn the protocols specific to where they work. PCCA 1000 Unit A2


To stick outwards. Ileostomy stomas are usually made to protrude into the opening of an appliance. SCAE 1000 Unit E1


Sticking out. A prolapsed uterus can sometimes protrude out of the vagina and be seen on the outside of the body. BCND 1000 Unit D1


To supply or provide for, such as services to help meet a client's needs. The provision of personal support services is a responsibility of the HCA. RRHB 1000 Unit B1

To provide for or to supply. When part of the colon must be bypassed, provision must be made to allow the elimination of feces. SCAE 1000 Unit E1


Closest or nearest. When bathing a client in bed, wash the arm that is distal from you and then the arm that is proximal. BCND 1000 Unit D4

Psychological development

The intellectual and emotional development of a person. Psychological development is partly influenced by the environment. FOCC 1000 Unit C3

Psychosocial needs

A combination of psychological needs that relate to the mind, and social needs that relate to relationships with others. In Maslow's hierarchy of needs, the basic psychosocial needs include safety and security, social, self-esteem and self-fulfillment. FOCC 1000 Unit C1

Public administration

The provincial/territorial health care insurance plan must be administered by a public agency without making a profit. Public Administration is one of the five criteria outlined in the Canada Health Act. RRHB 1000 Unit B1


See Swollen. BCND 1000 Unit D1


Related to the lungs. Pulmonary edema occurs when fluid accumulates in the lungs. FOCC 1000 Unit C4


A measurement of the rate at which the heart is beating, measured in beats per minute. The pulse is felt by pressing the pads of the fingers over an artery; never use the thumb as this has its own pulse. The pulse can be felt at several places on the body where the arteries are close to the surface of the skin, such as the inside of the wrist. SCAE 1000 Unit E3


A machine used to control how fast the liquid formula can enter the body through the feeding tube. An electronic pump maintains the rate of flow a nurse sets for a liquid formula. SCAE 1000 Unit E5


A black, round opening in the centre of the eye through which light enters. If you look into someone's eyes, the black area that is surrounded by a coloured area (iris) is the pupil. FOCC 1000 Unit C2


To blend food until there are no solid pieces left. Some clients may require a puree diet because of chewing or swallowing difficulties. BCND 1000 Unit D7


Containing pus. If purulent drainage is seen in a wound the supervisor must be notified. BCND 1000 Unit D1


A white or yellowish fluid that forms in an area of infection. Pus draining from a wound is one of several signs of infection. BCND 1000 Unit D1

Pyelonephritis/Kidney infection

Bacteria entering the ureters and then the kidneys, causing infection, which could result in kidney damage or kidney failure. Symptoms of pyelonephritis include back or abdominal pain, fever, blood in urine, and a general feeling of being unwell. FOCC 1000 Unit C4