Advancing paediatric surgery through education and research

A glossary of common terms

You visit your doctor but no one seems to speak English. Here’s a quick guide to some commonly used terms and jargon that might help you understand what’s going on.

Staff you may encounter on your visit to hospital

Advanced Nurse Practitioner

A highly qualified registered nurse that has undergone further postgraduate training to work autonomously caring for patients and performing procedures. Are usually found within specialties such as paediatric intensive care or neonatal units.


A doctor that specialises in putting your child to sleep for the duration of operations. Highly skilled and specialised, they perform a variety of procedures to keep your child comfortable and safe.

Consultant surgeon

The surgeon responsible for the care of your child. The most senior surgeon in the team and someone you will probably have met in your first contact at the hospital in clinic.


Good nutrition is key to surgical preparation and recovery. Dieticians will assess and advise on nutrition to families and patients to ensure they are fit enough to undergo surgery and recovery following this. They can also advise on special diets if required.

Family Support Worker

Often someone with a background in social care, they will support families who require support and guidance on social issues.

Junior doctor

They rotate through jobs  whilst training for their final specialty and therefore are not permanent members of staff at the hospital.

Don’t be fooled by the name. The junior doctor is a catch-all term that includes all qualified doctors who are not Consultants. That means that they could be the Foundation Year Doctor just graduated from medical school but also could be the Specialist Registrar months away from becoming a Consultant and still be called “Junior”. Not a term that is favoured by many these days.

Specialist Registrar

An experienced doctor, can be 3 to 8 years post graduation from medical school, undergoing specialty training to become a paediatric surgeon. He or she will be responsible for the day to day care of your child and has skills in diagnosis, initiating your treatment as well as operating on your child under the supervision of the Consultant.

Foundation Year Doctor

A doctor within 2 years of graduation from medical school. Rotating through different specialties before acquiring full General Medical Council registration after the first year of foundation training. Sometimes also referred to by their year i.e. FY1 or FY2.

Medical student

An undergraduate student at Medical School undertaking a degree in Medicine. The course is a minimum of 5 years. Many Specialist Paediatric Surgery Units are linked with the local medical school so you may see students in clinics or the ward and they will be clearly identified by their name badges.

Multi-disciplinary team (MDT)

All staff working together to provide the best care possible for patients and their families. You may see any number of specialists depending on the needs of your child and not all of them are listed here.

Occupational Therapist

Another allied health professional that assesses and advises on how to return back to normal daily activities following an injury or surgery.

Pain team

A scary name for an important team of doctors and nurses that administer and review pain control treatment for patients with both short term and long term pain. They sometimes have their own clinics.


When we take tissue samples during surgery, this doctor will examine them and tell us what the tissue is or if there are any abnormalities. Often found with a microscope and a huge amount of patience to examine tiny slivers of tissue! Also could be called on to perform post-mortem examinations.


A professional that is an expert in medication and all its forms. Provides advice to doctors on the correct way to administer drugs.

Physician Associate

The PA is a medical professional who has undertaken a 2 year postgraduate diploma and who trains to work alongside doctors performing tasks including taking a medical history, examining patients and diagnosing illnesses under the supervision of a doctor.


These allied health professionals have a tough job. They mobilise patients, help with lung treatments, advise on injuries and can perform developmental assessments. They push patients towards faster recovery.


A doctor who specialises in reading scans and x-ray pictures. Their interpretation of what is seen on these images is crucial to safe treatment of children. An Interventional Radiologist is not only skilled in interpreting pictures but also performs operative procedures with the guidance of scanning.

Specialty Doctor or Associate Specialist

This doctor has spent at least 3 years training within the specialty they work in. They are a permanent and valued senior member of staff.

Specialist Nurse

A registered nurse that is highly experienced within their specialty subject and works in the multi-disciplinary team to provide nursing care. They are usually attached to a specialty unit and will see patients both as inpatients and outpatients. Some will conduct their own clinics.

Staff Nurse

Ward based nurse that is responsible for the day to day nursing of patients. They have to perform multiple patient checks, prepare patients for the operating theatre, administer the drugs, give advice on wound care, perform procedures like inserting nasogastric tubes or removing sutures. They will be your best friend during an inpatient stay.

Ward Manager

The most senior nurse on the ward. The modern equivalent of the Ward Matron, this professional will oversee all activity on the ward.

Ward Jargon Explained


Describes an inflammatory reaction when your immune system reacts against something. This could be a drug or a washing powder. It is important that you alert your carers to any possible allergies during your treatment.


Abbreviation for “blood tests”

Drug round

Medication is checked and dispensed to patients several times a day by the ward staff on scheduled drug rounds.


The regular checks performed my ward staff including but not restricted to check pulse rate, blood pressure and temperature.


Available in all NHS Hospitals, the Patient Advice and Liaison Service is the place to go if you want to learn more about the NHS and how to get involved. They also provide general information about some conditions and treatments and how best to access specific services. They are also the department to see if you have concerns about your care or wish to lodge a complaint.

Pre-admission Clinic

In order to make your stay in hospital runs as smoothly as possible, you may be asked to attend a clinic at which you will have your history taken, be examined, asked for your consent for surgery and undergo any tests required to prepare for your operation. You may see a nurse, surgeon or anaesthetist during your visit.


The drugs that you will be sent home with on discharge from hospital. The ward staff will go through each one with you to make sure you understand how and when they should be taken when you get home.

Ward round

The team looking after you will see you on a daily basis and make decisions on medical care. You could find yourself faced by a sea of fresh faced medical staff in the morning and this the ward round. This is one of your chances to let the staff know your worries and to ask questions.


We couldn’t possibly list every procedure that you might undergo but here are a few basic general terms that you might come across.


This is when a piece of tissue is taken either using or needle or as an operation.  It is then examined by the Pathologist to help make a diagnosis.

Key-hole Surgery

Sometimes called minimal access surgery, this is an operation where a camera up to 10mm in diameter is inserted into the body cavity. The operation is performed using long thin instruments inserted through holes in the body wall. Not all operations are suitable for key-hole surgery.


An operation in which the tummy wall is opened.


An operation in which the chest wall is opened.


Sometimes if an organ fails, the only treatment available is transplant. This is taking a donated organ or part of an organ and implanting it into the patient.


This the department in which the Radiologists work.

CT scan

A clever form of X-ray scan that takes a series of pictures and puts them together to be able to see your insides in 3 dimensions. You will lie on a table and be whizzed through the scanner that looks like a giant doughnut. It can take a while so you have to lie quite still.


Similar to a CT scan but this time the doughnut is a giant magnet and pictures are produced using a different method. Better for seeing different details to a CT Scan. It can take even longer for the scan so you may need an anaesthetic to be able to lie perfectly still. Because it is a giant magnet, you have to make sure you remove any metal you might be wearing and let the radiologist know if you have any metal implants.

Ultrasound scan

This is a type of scan that uses sound waves to produce pictures. You can hear the whooshing noises as the scan is performed. It is useful as you get a moving picture and it does not involve any radiation. The radiologist puts some jelly on your scan to make the pictures clearer and runs a scan over the area being examined.


These are snap shots of your insides! You are exposed to a small safe amount of radiation to produce pictures in black and white.

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