Guide to Nursing Acronyms and Abbreviations

A group of nurses talking in a hospital hallway.

The health care industry uses an abundance of acronyms and abbreviations. Nurses must learn a wide array of terminology to keep up with internal conversations with their peers, understand patient charts, and comprehend the terms that are used when referring to conditions, treatments, and medications.

Although learning this terminology can be daunting — often taking several years to master — it’s an important part of becoming a nurse. Those who aspire to join the nursing profession are encouraged to learn the acronyms and abbreviations of the field.

Acronyms and abbreviations may seem like alphabet soup at first, but they benefit users by speeding along conversations, keeping medical documentation short and concise, and streamlining communications. The following are some of the top nursing acronyms and nursing abbreviations used in health care.

Education and Training

This section covers the various nursing acronyms and abbreviations relative to education and training.

Types of Nurses

In the medical field, although the term "nurse" is often used by patients, it isn’t as common among health care workers. That’s because the term is overly broad, and doesn’t appropriately specify a nurse’s role. The following are some of the top nursing acronyms for specific nursing job titles.

APRN: Advanced Practice Registered Nurse

An APRN is a nurse who has at least a master’s-level education. They are generally trained to serve a specific population of patients or perform a specific role, such as administering anesthesia.

CNA: Certified Nursing Assistant

A CNA holds an entry-level health care position and helps registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and physicians with patient-centered tasks.

CNL: Clinical Nurse Leader

A CNL is a nurse with a master’s degree who can deliver a continuum of care in any health care setting. In addition to delivering patient care, CNLs focus on care coordination, outcome measurements, transitions of care, risk assessment, and implementing best practices.

CNM: Certified Nurse Midwife

A CNM is an APRN who specializes in perinatal care, family planning, and the gynecological needs of women of all ages.

CNS: Clinical Nurse Specialist

A CNS is an APRN trained to provide advanced care for specific patients categorized in one of the following ways:

  • Disease or medical subspecialty
  • Health care setting
  • Population type
  • Type of care needed
  • Type of medical problem

CRNA: Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist

A CRNA is an APRN specially trained to administer anesthesia to patients who are undergoing surgery or other procedures.

LPN: Licensed Practical Nurse

An LPN doesn’t have the same qualifications, training, or education as a registered nurse. They can take on limited responsibilities such as recording patient vitals, changing wound dressings, administering medications, feeding and bathing patients, and other tasks delegated by a registered nurse.

LVN: Licensed Vocational Nurse

An LVN provides basic patient care under the direct supervision of a physician, nurse practitioner, or registered nurse. They perform duties such as taking vitals, assisting patients with bathing and dressing, and communicating with families about the patient’s status.

NP: Nurse Practitioner

An NP is an APRN who has a more advanced education and skill set than a registered nurse. In states where NPs have full practice authority, they can diagnose and treat patients without supervision, even prescribing medications. NPs also have the option to focus on any of a number of specialties. Some top NP specialties include:

  • Family nurse practitioner
  • Adult nurse practitioner
  • Pediatric nurse practitioner
  • Geriatric nurse practitioner
  • Women’s nurse practitioner
  • Neonatal nurse practitioner
  • Acute care nurse practitioner
  • Occupational health nurse practitioner

RN: Registered Nurse

An RN is a front-line medical worker, often the first point of contact with patients. They deliver a wide variety of patient care such as assessing patients, recording medical histories and symptoms, administering medications, and helping perform diagnostic tests.

Nursing Degrees

With the multitude of educational options, there are now several ways to become an RN, NP, or other high-level nurse. The following are some of the most used nursing acronyms in education.

ADN: Associate Degree in Nursing

An ADN is an undergraduate degree program that teaches students the core knowledge and skills needed to join the field of nursing as an entry-level nurse. It typically takes two years to complete.

ASN: Associate of Science in Nursing

An ASN is an undergraduate degree program similar to the ADN degree program. The main difference is that the ASN program focuses more on clinical skills, which means students can expect more lab exercises. It typically takes two years to complete and is ideal for those interested in gaining a role as an entry-level nurse.

AAS: Associate of Applied Science in Nursing

An AAS is another two-year degree program that focuses on teaching nursing students the foundational knowledge of a chosen nursing specialty along with basic nursing skills. This is yet another ideal degree for entry-level nurses.

BSN: Bachelor of Science in Nursing

A BSN is a four-year degree program that is more advanced and comprehensive than an associate degree. Nurses in a BSN program learn advanced clinical skills and knowledge that prepare them for higher-level roles in the health care field.

Current and aspiring nurses have a few different types of BSN programs to consider:

  • Accelerated BSN: Condenses the BSN program to less than two years of intense study and clinical work
  • ADN-to-BSN: Intended for those who have completed an ADN program and wish to elevate their knowledge and skills to the BSN level
  • RN-to-BSN: Intended for current registered nurses who already have an associate degree and nursing experience
  • LPN-to-BSN: Intended for those who are currently working as LPNs and wish to elevate their knowledge and skills to the BSN level

MSN: Master of Science in Nursing

An MSN is a graduate degree program that trains nurses to take on advanced roles in nursing, such as nurse practitioner. Generally, MSN programs take about three years to complete and include coursework that covers advanced health assessment, nursing research, and advanced pharmacology.

MSN programs have a variety of degree paths. The following are the most common MSN program types:

  • Direct-entry MSN: Intended for students who already have a bachelor’s degree in something other than nursing
  • BSN-to-MSN: Intended for students who already have a BSN and wish to elevate their knowledge and skill set to the MSN level
  • RN-to-MSN: Intended for students who are currently working registered nurses and have either a diploma or an associate-level degree
  • Dual MSN: Intended for those who wish to gain graduate-level knowledge of nursing combined with another area, such as health administration or business

Additionally, MSN degrees usually focus on a specialty. Some top MSN degree specialties include:

  • Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP)
  • Adult-Gerontology Nurse Practitioner (AGNP)
  • Adult Nurse Practitioner
  • Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN)
  • Cardiovascular Advanced Nurse Practitioner
  • Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)
  • Emergency Room Nurse Practitioner (ERNP)
  • Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)
  • Gastroenterology Nurse Practitioner
  • General Nurse Practitioner (NP)
  • Hospitalist Nurse Practitioner
  • Informatics Nurse
  • Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse Educator
  • Nursing Administrator
  • Oncology Nurse Practitioner (ONP)
  • Pain Management Nurse Practitioner
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner (PNP)
  • Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP)
  • Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP)

DNP: Doctor of Nursing Practice

A DNP is a terminal degree, meaning that it is the highest degree available. It teaches the most advanced concepts and skills in the nursing field. It is intended for those who aspire to take on leadership roles in nursing.

DNP programs have a number of degree paths. The following are the most common DNP program types:

  • Direct-entry DNP: Intended for students who already have a bachelor’s degree in something other than nursing
  • RN-to-DNP: Intended for working RNs who wish to elevate their skill set and knowledge to the DNP levels
  • BSN-to-DNP: Intended for students who have a BSN degree and wish to elevate their knowledge and skill set to the DNP level
  • MSN-to-DNP: Intended for students who already have an MSN degree and wish to elevate their knowledge and skill set to the DNP level

Certifications and Exams

Many roles require nurses to take an exam or earn a certification to qualify for licensure, to certify their skills, or for another pertinent reason. The following are some of the most common nursing acronyms and nursing abbreviations pertaining to certifications and exams.

Nursing Certifications

The following are some of the top nursing acronyms as they pertain to certifications.

  • AACRN: Advanced HIV/AIDS certified registered nurse
  • ACCNS-AG: Acute care clinical nurse specialist — adult-gerontology
  • ACCNS-N: Acute care clinical nurse specialist — neonatal
  • ACCNS-P: Acute care clinical nurse specialist — pediatrics
  • ACHPN: Advanced certified hospice and palliative nurse
  • ACNP-BC: Acute care nurse practitioner — board certified
  • ACNPC-AG: Acute care nurse practitioner — adult-gerontology
  • ACNS-BC: Adult health clinical nurse specialist — board certified
  • AGACNP-BC: Adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner — board certified
  • AGCN-BC: Adult-gerontology clinical nurse — board certified
  • AGPCNP-BC: Adult-gerontology primary care nurse practitioner — board certified
  • AMB-BC: Ambulatory care nursing — board certified
  • ANP-BC: Adult nurse practitioner — board certified
  • AOCN: Advanced oncology certified nurse
  • CCRA: Certified clinical research associate
  • CCRN (Adult): Critical care registered nurse, pertains to direct care for acutely ill or injured adult patients
  • CCRN (Neonatal): Critical care registered nurse, pertains to direct care for acutely ill or injured neonatal patients
  • CCRN (Pediatric): Critical care registered nurse, pertains to direct care for acutely ill or injured pediatric patients
  • CCRN-E (Adult): Critical care registered nurse, pertains to direct care for acutely ill or injured adult patients in a centralized or remote-based teleICU setting
  • CCRN-K (Adult): Critical care registered nurse knowledge professional, pertains to nonprimary and nonexclusive care for acutely ill or injured adult patients
  • CCRN-K (Neonatal): Critical care registered nurse knowledge professional, pertains to nonprimary and nonexclusive care for acutely ill or injured neonatal patients
  • CCRN-K (Pediatric): Critical care registered nurse knowledge professional, pertains to nonprimary and nonexclusive care for acutely ill or injured pediatric patients
  • CEN: Certified emergency nurse
  • CHPN: Certified hospice and palliative nurse
  • CMC (Adult): Cardiac medicine certification, pertains to direct care for acutely ill or injured adult cardiac patients
  • CMGT-BC: Case management — board certified
  • CNE: Certification for nurse educators
  • CNL: Clinical nurse leader
  • CNML: Certified nurse manager and leader
  • CPN: Certified pediatric nurse
  • CRN: Certified radiology nurse
  • CRNA: Certified registered nurse anesthetist
  • CV-BC: Cardiac vascular — board certified
  • FNP-BC: Family nurse practitioner — board certified
  • GERO-BC: Gerontology nursing — board certified
  • MEDSURG-BC: Medical-surgical nursing — board certified
  • NE-BC: Nurse executive — board certified
  • NEA-BC: Nurse executive advanced — board certified
  • NHDP-BC: National healthcare disaster professional — board certified
  • NPD-BC: Nursing professional development — board certified
  • OCN: Oncology certified nurse
  • PCCN (Adult): Progressive care certified nurse, pertains to direct care for acutely ill or injured adult patients regardless of physical location
  • PCCN-K (Adult): Progressive care certified nurse knowledge professional, pertains to nonprimary and nonexclusive care for acutely ill or injured adult patients
  • PED-BC: Pediatric nurse — board certified
  • PMGT-BC: Pain management nursing — board certified
  • PMH-BC: Psychiatric-mental health nursing — board certified
  • PMHNP: Psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner
  • PMHNP-BC: Psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner — board certified
  • RN-BC: Informatics nursing — board certified

Nursing Exams

The following are some of the most common nursing acronyms and nursing abbreviations pertaining to exams.

  • GRE: Graduate Record Examination
  • HOBET: Health Occupations Basic Entrance Test
  • NCLEX: National Council Licensure Examination
  • NCLEX-PN: National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses
  • NET: Nursing Entrance Test
  • NLN-PAX: Nursing Pre-Admission Examination
  • PSB: Psychological Services Bureau
  • TEAS: Test of Academic Skills


Nurses will encounter a number of acronyms and abbreviations in the workplace.

Common Medical Abbreviations and Acronyms

The following are some of the most common abbreviations and acronyms used by nurses in the health care field.

Medical Conditions and Diagnoses

The following is a list of common medical abbreviations used by nurses to refer to conditions, diagnoses, and other medically related topics.

  • AAA: Abdominal aortic aneurysm
  • ABG: Arterial blood gas
  • ABI: Ankle-brachial index
  • ADHD: Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
  • AF: Atrial fibrillation
  • AFR: Acute renal failure
  • AGC: Atypical glandular cells
  • AHF: Antihemophilic factor
  • AIDS: Acquired immune deficiency syndrome
  • AIH: Autoimmune hepatitis
  • AIHA: Autoimmune hemolytic anemia
  • AIN: Acute interstitial nephritis
  • AKI: Acute kidney injury
  • ALL: Acute lymphoblastic leukemia
  • ALP: Alkaline phosphatase
  • ALT: Alanine aminotransferase
  • ALTE: Apparent life-threatening episode
  • AMI: Acute myocardial infarction
  • AML: Acute myelogenous leukemia
  • AN: Anorexia nervosa
  • ANA: Antinuclear antibody
  • ANCA: Antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody
  • AR: Aortic regurgitation
  • ARB: Angiotensin receptor blocker
  • ARDS: Acute respiratory distress syndrome
  • ARF: Acute renal failure
  • ASD: Atrial septal defect
  • AST: Aspartate aminotransferase
  • ATP: Adenosine triphosphatase
  • AUS: Abdominal ultrasound
  • AV: Atrioventricular
  • AVB: Atrioventricular block
  • AVCD: Atrioventricular canal defect
  • AVN: Avascular necrosis
  • AVP: Arginine vasopressin
  • B-ALL: B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia
  • BPD: Borderline personality disorder
  • BPD: Bronchopulmonary dysplasia
  • BPH: Benign prostatic hypertrophy
  • BrS: Brugada syndrome
  • CAD: Coronary artery disease
  • CHD: Congenital heart disease or congenital heart defect
  • CHF: Congestive heart failure
  • CMV: Cytomegalovirus
  • COA: Coarctation of the aorta
  • COPD: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • CVA: Cerebrovascular accident
  • DJD: Degenerative joint disease
  • DM2: Diabetes mellitus type 2
  • DVT: Deep vein thrombosis
  • ESRD: End stage renal disease
  • FAS: Fetal alcohol syndrome
  • FBD: Functional bowel disease
  • FESS: Functional endoscopic sinus surgery
  • Fx: Fracture
  • GB: Gallbladder
  • GBS: Group B streptococcus
  • GCE: Glycine encephalopathy
  • GERD: Gastroesophageal reflux
  • Hep B: Hepatitis B
  • HIV: Human immunodeficiency virus
  • HTN: Hypertension
  • IBS: Irritable bowel syndrome
  • IIH: Indirect inguinal hernia
  • IPF: Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
  • IUFD: Intrauterine fetal demise
  • IVH: Intraventricular hemorrhage
  • MAS: Meconium aspiration syndrome
  • MI: Myocardial infarction
  • MMR: Measles, mumps, rubella
  • MRSA: Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus
  • N/V: Nausea or vomiting
  • PAC: Premature atrial contraction
  • PAF: Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation
  • PDA: Patent ductus arteriosus
  • PE: Pulmonary embolism
  • PIE: Pulmonary interstitial emphysema
  • PIH: Pregnancy induced hypertension
  • PIP: Peak inspiratory pressure
  • PKU: Phenylketonuria
  • PMS: Premenstrual syndrome
  • PPHN: Persistent pulmonary hypertension
  • PPS: Peripheral pulmonic stenosis
  • PROM: Premature rupture of membrane
  • PVC: Premature ventricular contraction
  • PVD: Peripheral vascular disease
  • PVL: Periventricular leukomalacia
  • RDS: Respiratory distress syndrome
  • RLS: Restless leg syndrome
  • SCI: Spinal cord injury
  • SIDS: Sudden infant death syndrome
  • SQTS: Short QT syndrome
  • SSS: Sick sinus syndrome
  • ST: Sinus tachycardia
  • STD: Sexually transmitted disease
  • SVT: Supraventricular tachycardia
  • TAPVR: Total anomalous pulmonary venous return
  • TB: Tuberculosis
  • TBI: Traumatic brain injury
  • TIA: Transient ischemic attack
  • UTI: Urinary tract infection
  • VSD: Ventricular septal defect
  • VT: Ventricular tachycardia

List of Common Medications

The following are some of the most common acronyms and abbreviations for medications used by nurses.

  • Abx: Antibiotics
  • ARS: Anti-rabies serum
  • ASA: Aspirin
  • B1: Thiamin
  • B2: Riboflavin
  • Barbs: Barbiturates
  • BC: Birth control
  • Bicarb: Bicarbonate
  • ECP: Emergency contraceptive pills
  • EOH: Ethyl alcohol
  • Fe: Iron
  • ff: Force fluids
  • I: Iodine
  • imm: Immunization
  • inhib: Inhibitor
  • inj: Injection
  • K: Potassium
  • KCL: Potassium chloride
  • KOH: Potassium hydroxide
  • Mg: Magnesium
  • MVI: Multivitamin
  • NaHCO3: Sodium bicarbonate
  • NSAIA: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory analgesic
  • NSAID: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug
  • OCP: Oral contraceptive pills
  • Oint: Ointment
  • PCN: Penicillin
  • Rx: Prescription
  • SAID: Steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

List of Common Treatments

The following are some of the most common acronyms and abbreviations used by nurses when referring to treatments.

  • ABR: Absolute bed rest
  • ALS: Advanced life support
  • CD: Cesarean delivery
  • CS: Cesarean section
  • DD: Dry dressing
  • DOPT: Directly observed preventive therapy
  • DOT: Directly observed therapy
  • Drsg: Dressing
  • Dx: Diagnosis
  • EMB: Endometrial biopsy
  • EPSDT: Early periodic screening diagnosis and treatment
  • Ex: Examination
  • H&P: History and physical
  • HRT: Hormone replacement therapy
  • I&D: Incision and drainage
  • IFP: Initial family planning
  • Inhib: Inhibitor
  • Imm: Immunization
  • Inj: Injection
  • Insp: Inspiration
  • IPPE: Initial preventive physical exam
  • Lab proc: Laboratory procedure
  • Mast: Mastectomy
  • NFP: Natural family planning
  • O&E: Observation and examination
  • PT: Physical therapy
  • Px: Prognosis
  • SAFE: Sexual assault medical forensic exam
  • Stim: Stimulation
  • Sx: Surgery
  • Ther: Therapy
  • Tr: Treatment
  • UA: Urinalysis
  • US: Ultrasound
  • X-ray: Roentgenogram

Hospital Units

The following are the acronyms used for the various health care settings and hospital units most commonly occupied by nurses and other health care workers.

  • ACU: Acute Care Unit
  • CCN: Continuing Care Nursery
  • CCU: Coronary Cardiac Unit
  • CICU: Cardiac Intensive Care Unit
  • ED: Emergency Department
  • ER: Emergency Room
  • HEM-ONC: Hematology-Oncology
  • ICCU: Intermediate Cardiac Care Unit
  • ICU: Intensive Care Unit
  • L&D: Labor and Delivery
  • NBN: Newborn Nursery
  • NICU: Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
  • OR: Operating Room
  • PACU: Post-Anesthesia Care Unit
  • PCU: Progressive Care Unit
  • PICU: Pediatric Intensive Care Unit
  • TCU: Transitional Care Unit
  • TICU: Trauma Intensive Care Unit
  • SDU: Special Delivery Unit
  • SICU: Surgical Intensive Care Unit
  • VICU: Vascular Intermediate Care Unit

Advance Your Career in Nursing

The health care field is booming, with an ever-growing need for registered nurses to work on the front lines in hospitals and health care facilities. The number of jobs for registered nurses is projected to grow by 9% — 276,800 new positions — between 2020 and 2030.

The best way to become a nurse is by investing in a nursing education, such as by earning a Master of Science in Nursing degree. Along with teaching students the nursing acronyms and nursing abbreviations that are so prevalent in the field, an advanced degree program lays the foundation for a successful career as a registered nurse or nurse practitioner.

Recommended Reading:

APRN vs PA: What’s the Difference?

FNP-BC vs FNP-C: Certification Differences

Nursing Unionization: Pros and Cons