Staff use of acronyms in electronic care records

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The increased use of acronyms and abbreviations by practitioners in mental health services challenges guidance that warns against using unnecessary jargon in practice. A study was designed to assess the prevalence of acronyms, used without explanation, in the records of patients detained in a medium secure unit and to estimate awareness of what these abbreviations refer to among nursing staff.

The results show that the use of abbreviations is common among all mental health professionals (doctors, in particular) and that a significant proportion of the acronyms used are either ambiguous or poorly understood by nursing staff. Mental health professionals are urged to restrict their use of abbreviations to those that are universally accepted.

Patients' casenotes should be unambiguous to avoid misunderstandings among healthcare professionals and limit potential risks to patients and staff, says Gareth Rees

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