I heard a new acronym the other day.
Acronyms are common in medicine and nursing. We have "ETOH", shorthand for "alcohol" (it's the chemical formula for drinkable alcohol, not the rubbing sort), which is also often used as a shorthand for alcohol abuse.
There's "SOB", which isn't a description of the patient's personality, but instead stands for "Shortness Of Breath".
And "TURP". TURP means Trans-Urethral Resection of the Prostate, a method of removing part or all of the prostate gland.
"BRCA" is one everybody knows about, thanks to recent news stories about the breast- and ovarian-cancer gene BRCA1. BRCA is, of course, BReast CAncer.
"GBM" is one I use a lot--it stands for GlioBlastoma Multiforme, the number-one brain tumor you don't want to get.
The new one? "TUD".
"TUD...." I thought. "TUD. I wonder what TUD means. Trans-urethral....no, that's not it. Topical....no."
Finally, I started asking everybody else on the floor if they'd heard the acronym before. Nobody had. And nothing makes a group of nurses feel dumber than an acronym they can't figure out, so we were an unhappy bunch. I finally caught up with the doctor who'd written the history and asked what on earth TUD meant, and she said:
"Tobacco Use Disorder."
Tobacco use disorder. The patient is a smoker. No, wait, not a smoker, but a person with tobacco use disorder. I rolled the term "tobacco use disorder" around in my brain for a while, wondering when we'd get hit with "Dietary Fat Disorder" or "Inactivity Syndrome" or "Fewer Teeth Than A Chicken."
Most of the time I'm in favor of medical language. It's hung on for years for a reason: it's exacting and precise, it's descriptive, and it's relatively easy to translate for the lay person if you take a little time. I'm not a huge fan of the idea that we need to write in plain English rather than use medical terminology, partly because most of the doctors and nurses I run into can't write plainly, but can manage medical terminology.
But this time? I'm in favor of ditching the acronym TUD and going back to "smoker", with a quick comment or two on PPD (pack-per-day) and when the person quit, if they already have.
Tobacco Use Disorder, if it catches on, is going to cause Exploding Head Syndrome.