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NorQuest Health Dictionary

A research guide focused on medical terminology


An area of the back consisting of five fused vertebrae at the base of the spine. Below the sacrum is the coccyx, or tailbone of the spine. BCND 1000 Unit D1

The lower part of the spine just before the coccyx (or tailbone). The sacrum is an area of the body that must be observed for redness. PCCA 1000 Unit A3


A liquid substance secreted in the mouth that keeps the mouth moist and aids in digestion. Smelling food stimulates increased saliva production. FOCC 1000 Unit C3


Harmful bacteria found in some food that causes a gastrointestinal illness. Salmonella is rarely found in Canadian eggs, but precautions should be taken when cooking or using eggs. SCSF 1000 Unit F5

Sanitary pad

Absorbent pad used by females during menstruation to collect uterine discharge. When caring for a menstruating client, the sanitary pad should be checked at least every three hours. BCND 1000 Unit D3


A cleaning method that uses cleaners to remove and kill harmful bacteria on surfaces. Countertops, cutting boards, and utensils that come in contact with raw meat should be sanitized with a bleach solution after use. SCSF 1000 Unit F5


A long pole that runs from the ceiling to the floor, used to assist with standing and balance, and that has a grip handle attached at the correct height for the individual. The Saskapole is used at the bedside, in the bathroom, or any other area where it aids a perrson to transfer. BCND 1000 Unit D2


Soaked to the point that no more moisture can be absorbed. A towel is saturated when it cannot dry a surface because it can't absorb any more water. PCCA 1000 Unit A2


To burn by steam coming in contact with skin. Burns and scalds are a hazard for the HCA when cooking in a client's kitchen. SCSF 1000 Unit F5


Flakes of dry skin. When observing a client's skin condition, report dry, scaly skin to the supervisor. BCND 1000 Unit D4


The skin covering the top of the head that is seen underneath the hair. The scalp should be smooth and free from dirt, skin flakes, abrasions, or bruises. BCND 1000 Unit D5


Blaming a person or group of people for a mistake or a problem when that person or group of people is innocent. Blaming volunteers for the loss of health-care jobs is scapegoating. PCCA 1000 Unit A4


A loose pouch of skin below the penis that contains the testes. The testes are located in the scrotum so the body can regulate and maintain their temperature. FOCC 1000 Unit C2


To be produced and excreted. As we age, digestive secretions in the stomach decrease. FOCC 1000 Unit C3


Substances produced by the body, usually in liquid form. Saliva is a secretion produced in the mouth. PCCA 1000 Unit A2


Normal fluids produced by the body, such as saliva, tears, and mucus. People usually swallow secretions without being aware of what they are doing. SCAE 1000 Unit E2


A medication (drug) that causes a person to become relaxed. Sedatives are sometimes used as a chemical restraint to control unsafe behaviour. RRHB 1000 Unit B2


To try and find or to look for. It is important for the new HCA to seek constructive feedback from her supervisor. PCCA 1000 Unit A1


To separate or be separated from the general public due to race, religion, class, or disability. People with developmental disabilities should be allowed to form relationships with both sexes, not be segregated by gender. SCSF 1000 Unit F1

Seizure disorders

Loss of consciousness caused by erratic stimulation of certain areas in the brain, resulting in symptoms that are mild to severe. Seizure disorders may cause a brief period of loss of consciousness or may cause more severe symptoms such as urinary incontinence and temporary confusion. FOCC 1000 Unit C4


Knowing who you are and how you feel and act. This includes knowing your own beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, and how they affect others. When you are self-aware, you are more likely to communicate effectively. PCCA 1000 Unit A1

Self-esteem or Esteem needs

How a person views themselves in relation to others; a sense of worth or pride in oneself. A person with low self-esteem feels she is worth less than others around her. FOCC 1000 Unit C1


Satisfaction or fulfillment with yourself. If you set a personal goal and reach it, goal you will have a sense of self-fulfillment. FOCC 1000 Unit C1

Semicircular canal

Found in the inner ear, the semicircular canal consists of three semicircular loops filled with fluid. The semicircular canals are responsible for balance. FOCC 1000 Unit C2

Semi-Fowler's position

Semi-sitting in bed, half as high as in Fowler's position. People who have problems breathing may want to sleep in a semi-Fowler's position. PCCA 1000 Unit A3


Begins the communication process by choosing and idea and putting it into words. In the communication process, if you ask a client a question you are called a sender. PCCA 1000 Unit A1

Sensory loss

A loss of function in one of the five senses of hearing, vision, taste, smell, or touch. Sensory loss can increase anxiety in older adults. FOCC 1000 Unit C5

Sensory nerves

Nerves that send the brain signals about temperature, texture, pain, and pressure. The sensory nerves are part of the sensory system of the body. FOCC 1000 Unit C2

Sensory system

Organs that provide information to the body from the outside. The sensory system includes the eyes, nose, ear, tongue, and sensory nerves. FOCC 1000 Unit C2


A cloth or paper napkin that is used to wipe food particles off the face and mouth when eating. Always have a serviette available for the client during meals. BCND 1000 Unit D7

Seven rights (of medication administration)

In this context, the word 'right' means correct. Outlines seven things that must be checked to ensure they are correct before administering a medication. There are 7 rights of medication administration; right medication, right dose, right person, right time, right method, right purpose, and right documentation. SCAE 1000 Unit E6

Shaken baby syndrome

A condition caused by forceful shaking of an infant or young child by the arms, legs, chest, or shoulders. Shaken baby syndrome can result in brain damage, speech and learning disabilities, paralysis, and even death. SCSF 1000 unit F4

Shallow breaths/shallow respirations

Occur when respirations appear to draw less air into the lungs that normal. When a client has shallow breaths his chest will barely move or not move at all during respirations. SCAE 1000 Unit E3


Needles, IV needles, or any object that can puncture the skin. Sharps must always be disposed of in a sharps container to prevent others from being injured by them. PCCA 1000 Unit A2

Shearing force

The sliding of two surfaces in opposite directions. If a client is incorrectly repositioned in bed, shearing force may cause skin tears. PCCA 1000 Unit A3


Hours of work a person is scheduled to complete. A work schedule must be developed outlining an individual's shifts for which she is responsible. RRHB 1000 Unit B4


A viral disease that affects groups of nerves, usually on one side of the body, and causes itching, pain, and blistering. Shingles can lie dormant in the body for long periods of time. FOCC 1000 Unit C3


An involuntary reflex of shaking or trembling of the body to maintain body heat. When a client has an increased temperature and is shivering the body is actually saving body heat instead of releasing it. SCAE 1000 Unit E3


A condition of the body that occurs when the body cannot supply enough oxygen to the tissues. Shock can result in death if the person does not quickly receive medical treatment. SCAE 1000 Unit E3

Shortness of breath (SOB)/Dyspnea

Difficulty breathing. SOB can be caused by a respiratory problem or a circulatory problem. FOCC 1000 Unit C4


A covering a body is placed in after death. A shroud protects the body from injury during transport to the morgue or funeral home. SCSF 1000 Unit F3

Shuffle or Shuffling

To walk without lifting your feet. When someone is depressed they often walk by shuffling their feet. PCCA 1000 Unit A1

Side effect

Mild response to medication that does not cause injury, but may be uncomfortable. Itching and rashes are two examples of side effects that may occur in response to a medication. SCAE 1000 Unit E6

Sigmoid colostomy

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


Something that has a meaning or is important. If a client has significant cultural practices or beliefs then you should try to learn what these are. PCCA 1000 Unit A4

Simple Dressing/clean dressing

A clean covering used over an open skin area to help prevent infection as the wound heals. When changing a simple dressing clean technique must be used to prevent the spread of harmful microorganisms. SCAE 1000 Unit E4

Sims' position

Lying on the side with the top leg flexed and supported by a pillow. The Sims' position should be one of the positions used when repositioning a client. PCCA 1000 Unit A3


Happening at the same time. Many things occur simultaneously in the human body to keep us alive and well. FOCC 1000 Unit C2

Sit-stand device/Sit-stand lift

A mechanical aid used to assist a transfer by supporting some of the client's weight as he rises from a sitting to a standing position; it also moves the client from one area to another without the client walking. A client must be able to support some of his own weight to safely use a sit-stand device. BCND 1000 Unit D2


The ability to do something as a result of learning and practice. Proper handwashing is a skill that caregivers must learn in order to prevent the spread of microorganisms. RRHB 1000 Unit B1

Skin turgor

The elasticity of the skin; the skin's ability to return to its shape after being stretched. When skin is grasped between two fingers and then released it should spring back quickly to its shape. This is known as good skin turgor. FOCC 1000 Unit C2


Sounds which are not clear and separate. Slurred speech is an abnormal symptom and must be reported to your supervisor. FOCC 1000 Unit C2

Small intestine

That part of the digestive system, between the stomach and large intestines, in which most of digestion takes place. Food in the small intestines is broken down using secretions from the liver and pancreas. FOCC 1000 Unit C2

Smooth muscle

Muscle tissue that is found internally and moves involuntarily. The stomach and other internal organs, except the heart, are controlled by smooth muscle. FOCC 1000 Unit C2

Soaker pad

A large rectangle-shaped pad that is waterproof on one side and absorbent on the other, used to protect linen from becoming wet or soiled. When changing an incontinent brief it may be necessary to change the soaker pad as well. BCND 1000 Unit D3

Social model of care

A health-care model that focuses on the whole person, with the goal of helping clients remain healthy and well for as long as possible. It centres on the prevention of disease and the promotion of health and wellness. Following the social model of care, HCAs need to focus on the abilities of an individual rather than on their limitations. RRHB 1000 Unit B1

Social wellness

Maintaining appropriate interpersonal relationships in order to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance. Social wellness is maintained by having relationships with family, friends, and community groups. RRHB 1000 Unit B1

Social worker

A person who provides counselling and group work related to psychosocial and emotional issues. A social worker is a common member of the support team. RRHB 1000 Unit B3

Soft spot/Fontanelle

A soft area of the scalp at the top of an infant's head that has no skull bone. The soft spot on the top of a newborn's head is normal and will close over with bone as the newborn grows. SCSF 1000 unit F4


A substance that can be used to dissolve another substance. Most solvents are flammable and must be stored away from heat sources. SCSF 1000 Unit F5

Somatic nervous system

The system that contains motor nerves and sensory nerves that allow the body to sense and respond to outside stimuli. The somatic nervous system is part of the peripheral nervous system. FOCC 1000 Unit C2

Source of infection (pathogens)

Microorganisms capable of causing sickness or infection. Pathogens are a source of infection because they can cause sickness when transmitted to a host. PCCA 1000 Unit A2


Jerky movements due to uncontrolled, involuntary muscle contractions. Spasticity of muscles interferes with normal movement. FOCC 1000 Unit C2


Spasms that occur in waves. The muscles in a paralyzed area of the body can become spasmodic when the body part is moved. BCND 1000 Unit D1


A sample of a body material. Specimens include urine, feces, and sputum samples that can be collected and sent to the lab for testing. SCAE 1000 Unit E1

Spenco mattress

This is a bed mattress that decreases pressure without restricting the positioning of a person. A Spenco mattress is most often used when a physiotherapist or occupational therapist recommends it for a client. PCCA 1000 Unit A3


Male reproductive cells necessary to fertilize a female egg. Sperm are produced in the testes. FOCC 1000 Unit C2

Sphincter muscle

A muscle in the shape of a circle that can open when relaxed or close when tensed. The sphincter muscle in the stomach allows a small amount of churned food to pass into the small intestine. FOCC 1000 Unit C2


An instrument used to measure blood pressure. There are three main types of sphygmomanometers: mercury, aneroid, and electronic. SCAE 1000 Unit E3

Spina bifida

A nervous system disorder caused by the spine not forming properly during fetal development, resulting in damage to the spinal cord. The damage from spina bifida may result in partial or complete loss of sensation, paralysis below the deformed area, and bowel and bladder incontinence. SCSF 1000 unit F4

Spinal cord

Located at the base of the brain, the spinal cord is a collection of nerves within the spinal column. The spinal cord is part of the central nervous system. FOCC 1000 Unit C2

Spinal cord injury

Damage to the nerves in the spinal cord, interfering with impulses travelling from the brain to the body areas controlled by that group of nerves. Damage can cause some interference or completely stop the impulses. Spinal cord injury affects the ability to receive sensations from, and control motor movements to, the affected areas. FOCC 1000 Unit C4

Spiritual wellness

This refers to a person's inner strength or resources and philosophy of life. Spiritual wellness includes love, intimacy, trust, joy, faith, purpose, courage, and hope. RRHB 1000 Unit B1


Husband or wife or permanent partner to another person. One of the greatest risk factors affecting mental health is the loss of a spouse because of the emotional, social, and financial changes that result. SCSF 1000 Unit F1


Mucus coughed up from the lungs. A clear-coloured sputum is a normal finding in the respiratory system. FOCC 1000 Unit C2

Mucus-like substance that is coughed up from the lungs and mouth. When the client first wakes up in the morning is the best time to try to get a sputum sample. BCND 1000 Unit D1

Material discharged or coughed up from the lungs. Normally, no sputum is present. A sputum specimen is examined for microorganisms to determine whether there is an infection. SCAE 1000 Unit E1

Sputum specimen

A sample of sputum that is coughed into a sterile specimen container and sent to the lab. It is usually easier to have a client give you a sputum specimen first thing in the morning. SCAE 1000 Unit E1


A person whose condition or health is not likely to change is considered to be stable. HCAs provide care for clients who are stable and for whom outcomes are predictable. RRHB 1000 Unit B1

Stable patient

A patient whose condition or health is not likely to change suddenly. HCAs work with stable clients so if a client's condition changes suddenly the HCA must immediately report these changes to the supervisor. SCAE 1000 Unit E1

Stage Theories

Theories of life that view development as a series of stages, where a challenge must be met in order to continue to develop. Some stage theories describe the ability to accomplish each challenge as affecting future growth and development. FOCC 1000 Unit C3


The ability to cope with activity without becoming tired and feeling weak. Increased tiredness and lack of stamina are symptoms related to many disorders and diseases. BCND 1000 Unit D2

Standard Medication Delivery Protocol

Provides guidelines to assist care providers with checks and balances to ensure the safety and comfort of a client during medication delivery. The HCA should follow the Standard Medication Delivery Protocol when administering medications to clients. SCAE 1000 Unit E6

Standard precautions (routine practices)

A minimum set of standards or practices which care providers are required to follow when performing any tasks that require contact with blood or body fluids. Standard precautions should be used when cleaning up emesis. PCCA 1000 Unit A2

Stasis ulcer

An ulcer caused by poor blood circulation to an area of the body, causing skin to breakdown. Do not cut the toenails of clients who have problems such as stasis ulcers, PVD, or diabetes as they may have special foot care needs. BCND 1000 Unit D5


The condition of someone or something. When observing the status of the client, observe his overall condition and how he is able to function in the environment. BCND 1000 Unit D1


This is the process of forming a broad generalization about a group of people who share the same beliefs. If you believe that all elderly people cannot look after themselves, then you are stereotyping elderly people. PCCA 1000 Unit A4


The state of being free from all microorganisms whether harmful or harmless. Surgical equipment must be sterile before use or it can be a source of infection. PCCA 1000 Unit A2


The process of destroying all microorganisms. Hospitals use the process of sterilization for various types of equipment and instruments. PCCA 1000 Unit A2


An instrument used to listen to circulatory sounds such as the beating of the heart and the pulsing of the blood through arteries. A stethoscope is used when measuring blood pressure with mercury and aneroid monometers. SCAE 1000 Unit E3


To motivate learning or to cause a reaction. Music can provide auditory (hearing) stimulation to an infant. SCSF 1000 unit F4


Anything that causes a reaction or response. Challenging behaviours are the result of a stimulus; they do not "just happen." SCSF 1000 Unit F2


Actions or circumstances that cause a response. Reflex responses to stimuli become slower as we age. FOCC 1000 Unit C3


The opening of an internal organ coming through the ostomy. In abdominal ostomies, the stoma should be shiny, wet and dark pink, like the lining of the mouth. SCAE 1000 Unit E1

Stomach ulcers

Open sores on the lining of the stomach due to the breaking down of the stomach lining by gastric juices. It is now thought that microorganisms (Helicobacter pylori) play an important role in causing stomach ulcers. FOCC 1000 Unit C4

Stool specimen

A sample of stool used to examine for blood, pus, parasites, worms, or digestive problems. A stool specimen is obtained by having the client defecate in a clean bedpan or container that fits in the toilet. SCAE 1000 Unit E1


To bend forward, to bend the spinal column forward causing a curve in the back. Muscle shrinkage can cause body posture to become stooped. FOCC 1000 Unit C3


The body's physical and psychological responses that happen when we feel pressured by changes and responsibilities in life. Unexpected life events may cause stress whether those events bring sadness or happiness. RRHB 1000 Unit B4

Stress management

Using techniques (skills) to control your level of stress and better balance the demands in your life. Stress management techniques include physical exercise, adequate sleep, proper nutrition, and relaxation methods. RRHB 1000 Unit B4


A cause of stress for a person, such as unreasonable demands or expectations. Stressors are anything that causes an increased stress level in a person. RRHB 1000 Unit B4

Striated muscle

Muscle tissue that can expand and contract by voluntary commands. Striated muscle is found at joints and moves the bones of the body. FOCC 1000 Unit C2


A high-pitched respiratory sound usually heard during inspiration as a result of a constricted or obstructed airway. Stridor usually occurs in the upper airway, around the throat area. SCAE 1000 Unit E3

Stripping (the skin)

Taking the top layer of skin off when removing an adhesive. When removing an ostomy wafer, gently ease the wafer away from the skin to prevent the skin from stripping. SCAE 1000 Unit E1


To put effort towards a purpose. People who accept aging will strive towards fulfilling goals. FOCC 1000 Unit C3


The way in which parts of a body system are arranged. It is important to understand the structure of the circulatory system when caring for others. FOCC 1000 Unit C2

Subcutaneous (subcut)

Under the skin. Insulin injections are given into subcutaneous tissue of the upper arms, upper thighs, and abdomen. SCAE 1000 Unit E6

Subjective Observations

These are based on what an individual tells you. When documenting these observations you must quote what the client says in exactly the same words the client used. A client telling you he has a headache is an example of a subjective observation. PCCA 1000 Unit A1


Under the tongue. Sublingual medication is placed under the tongue to be absorbed by the mucous membranes. SCAE 1000 Unit E6

Sublingual tablet

A medication in pill form that is placed under the tongue to dissolve so it can be absorbed by the mucous membranes. The HCA should provide mouth care before administering a sublingual tablet to a client. SCAE 1000 Unit E6

Substance abuse

Refers to knowingly misusing drugs (legal or illegal), or alcohol, or a combination of both. Substance abuse can cause confusion, inability to focus or complete tasks, memory problems, or changes in behaviour. SCSF 1000 Unit F1


Difficult to see or detect. Health care aides must be very observant to notice subtle changes in a client's condition. PCCA 1000 Unit A2

Sucking reflex

If an infant's lips are touched she will make sucking motions with her mouth. The sucking reflex in a newborn ensures the infant will get enough nutrients. SCSF 1000 unit F4

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)/Crib Death

The sudden and unexpected death of an apparently healthy infant who is usually less than one year of age. SIDS happens with no warning and is the most common cause of death of infants within the first year or life. SCSF 1000 unit F4


Believing a person is in a higher position or more important than another person. When you treat an elderly client as if he were a child, you are acting superior to him. PCCA 1000 Unit A4

Supervised transfer

A transfer in which the HCA does not physically assist the client, but gives verbal instruction and supervision while the client transfers. When supervising a transfer stay close to the client in case she requires more assistance than expected. BCND 1000 Unit D2


Supervision occurs when someone, such as an RN, oversees and gives direction to another person, such as the HCA. Supervision can be direct (supervisor physically present with you while you perform a task) or indirect (supervisor not physically present with you while you perform a task). The HCA performs tasks under supervision that can be direct or indirect. RRHB 1000 Unit B1

Supine position

Lying on one's back in bed. After assisting a client into the supine position, ensure they are comfortable before leaving them. PCCA 1000 Unit A3

Support Plan

See Care plan. PCCA 1000 Unit A1

Support plan 1

See care plan. BCND 1000 Unit D1

Support system

A network of friends, family, and others in your life, on whom you depend for help and support. Health care aides need to understand that each client will have their own unique support system. PCCA 1000 Unit A4

Support team

A group of people, including the client and client's family or guardian, that contributes to client care and meeting client needs. Many people make up the support team and each support team is unique. RRHB 1000 Unit B3

Support worker

A person who provides care and assists a client with activities of daily living (personal support). HCAs are considered support workers because they have the knowledge and skills to provide personal support. RRHB 1000 Unit B1


A cone-shaped preparation that is inserted into a body opening and melts at body temperature. It is important for the HCA to know that there are suppository medications that are inserted rectally, while others are inserted vaginally. SCAE 1000 Unit E6

Suprapubic catheter

A catheter that is inserted into the bladder through an incision in the body. A suprapubic catheter may be used when the urethra or part of the bladder has been injured. SCAE 1000 Unit E1


To lack defences against, or to be easily affected by, something. HIV makes a person highly susceptible to many opportunistic infections and diseases. FOCC 1000 Unit C4

Susceptible host

One who lacks resistance to a particular pathogenic organism. Infants and people who are under stress are examples of susceptible hosts. PCCA 1000 Unit A2

Sweet grass

A grass that has a sweet taste or smell when burned. Sweet grass is sometimes burned as a ritual during a funeral for a person from the Plains Indians culture. SCSF 1000 Unit F3


Larger than normal size due to fluid build up. It is important for the HCA to report swelling of an extremity to the supervisor. BCND 1000 Unit D1


A symptom is a change in physical appearance or function of the body that indicates a change in health and wellness. The symptom of shortness of breath may be the result of a lung condition or a heart condition. FOCC 1000 Unit C2


A place of worship for those of Jewish faith. After the funeral for a loved one, the family has daily prayer services in the synagogue for a 30-day period. SCSF 1000 Unit F3

Synthetic detergents

Man-made cleaners created by combining certain chemicals. Synthetic detergents can clean surfaces without creating the need to rinse the surface afterwards. SCSF 1000 Unit F5


A device used for injecting or removing fluids. A syringe consists of a barrel, plunger, and tip. The nurse requires a 60 ml syringe for different procedures that are performed before, during, and after administering a tube feeding. SCAE 1000 Unit E5


A group of organs, working together for a related purpose, forms a system. There are ten body systems that make up the human body. FOCC 1000 Unit C2

Systemic effect

Causes an effect to the whole body. The HCA must be aware that some medications have a systemic effect, while others have only a local effect on the body. SCAE 1000 Unit E6

Systolic blood pressure

The pressure of blood flowing through the arteries when the heart is contracting. The systolic blood pressure is the top or first number in a blood pressure reading. SCAE 1000 Unit E3