The Joint Commission: Eliminate these 5 abbreviations

The Joint Commission published a standard for abbreviation use as well as a list of terms that can cause confusion. The "do not use" list applies to all orders and medication-related documentation, whether it's handwritten or on pre-printed forms.

Here are five problematic abbreviations, acronyms and symbols to avoid.

1. U, u (unit)

These symbols can be mistaken as the number zero, the number four or "cc." Instead, write "unit."

2. IU (international unit)

This abbreviation can be mistaken for IV or the number 10. Instead, write "International Unit."

3. Q.D., QD, q.d., qd (daily) or Q.O.D., QOD, q.o.d, qod (every other day)

These abbreviations can be mistaken for each other; the period after the "Q" might be mistaken for "I," and the "O" mistaken for "I." Instead, write "daily" or "every other day."

4. Trailing zero (X.0 mg) or lack of leading zero (.X mg)

This documentation could result in a decimal point being missed. Instead, write "X mg" or "0.X mg."

However, there is an exception. The Joint Commission states the use of a trailing zero is permissible "only where required to demonstrate the level of precision of the value being reported, such as for laboratory results, imaging studies that report size of lesions, or catheter/tube sizes. It may not be used in medication orders or other medication-related documentation."

5. MS; MSO4 and MgSO4

The problem with these designations is they can mean morphine sulfate or magnesium sulfate and might be confused for one another. Instead, write "morphine sulfate" or "magnesium sulfate."

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