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Today I came across this news article. In short, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges (in the UK) is providing new guidelines to medical doctors on the writing of clinical letters to patients. Among the advices is "use English instead of Latin". The article (and the official document) only mentions one example, which is using “twice daily” instead of “bd” (bis die) for medication indications.

Having the privilege of living in the UK for 7 years, I never encountered any such uses of Latin in my interactions with GPs. Are you aware of further examples in which Latin is used? I'm curious.

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I'm in Australia, not the UK, but I've never encountered a GP who uses Latin either.

I am, however, an ex-nurse, and I can assure you that while English is considered best practice, some Latin is still used - in notes, on med. charts, and in everyday conversation, mainly because it's such useful shorthand. Two of the most common examples that come to mind are:

mane - in the morning

nocte - at night

Then there are also acronyms such as:

"qid" (quater in die) - four times a day/six hourly

"tds" (ter die sumendus) - to be taken three times a day

Also "bd", as you note above.

Note, the acronym is said, not the Latin words. These are used a lot by nurses in talking about frequency of meds and observations because they map onto set times in the shift and set off a sort of automatic internal planner that organises your shift!

Also used a lot:

"PR" (per rectum - via the rectum) - as in "PR bleeding", "PR examination"

"PV" (per vaginam - via the vagina) - as above

"prn" (pro re nata - as needed) - as in "he's got morphine charted prn"

"po" (per os - by mouth) - we might actually say "p.o." but more likely say "oral" but this acronym is ubiquitous

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  • Amazing stuff! Thanks! And did you learn this in formal teaching of the discipline or it is just part of the unwritten culture absorbed in practice? – luchonacho Sep 4 '18 at 10:21
  • @luchonacho I trained a long time ago and abbreviations like bd/tds/qid etc. were more usual on med charts and in notes and so I think we must have been taught this formally. They do still occur but English is preferred to avoid any confusion. But even if they disappear formally, I can't imagine talking about patient care without using them and, in that sense, they are a part of the unwritten culture that is absorbed in practice. – Penelope Sep 4 '18 at 11:41
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    @luchonacho Also, they are used by many without an understanding of the Latin. For example, many would say that PO is "per oral". Similarly, RIP is used in patients' notes but many understand this as "rest in peace" rather than requiescat in pace . QID is understood as meaning "six hourly". Thus, although the reference is wrong, the sense has been retained. – Penelope Sep 4 '18 at 11:48
  • As an aside, I always thought RIP was in the English meaning. In Spanish we use a translated version, QEPD, standing for "que en paz descanse". – luchonacho Sep 4 '18 at 13:33
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    @luchonacho Ah, interesting. TBH, I'm not entirely sure now which came first, "rest in peace" or requiescat in pace. I always understood "rest in peace" to be a calque of the Latin phrase and it's just a happy coincidence that the initialisation of "rest in peace" in English matches. Perhaps this could be a question posed formally? – Penelope Sep 5 '18 at 1:29

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