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Letter to the Editor
Editor, – Dr Nisselle's remarks on the legal significance of prescription writing are very much to the point (Aust Prescr 2004;27:108-9). I would like to take him up on the statement that 'prn' is an antiquated Latin abbreviation, when in the next column he uses an equally antiquated Latin term, 'mens rea', no less than three times. This term is one of a whole library of Latin terms used by the legal fraternity to befuddle the rest of the population. Why choose 'prn' when there are 'bd', 'tid', 'bid', 'ac', 'pc' and many other Latin abbreviations, some of which get more use than 'prn'. Used properly these abbreviations are very helpful in saving time and space.
In the 1950s there was an arrangement between Yugoslavia and the UK for reciprocal medical treatment of visitors. Inevitably, some British tourists fell sick and returned home with summaries of their treatment. These were written in Latin so I was able to translate the diagnosis and treatment. I would not have been capable of doing this if the summaries had been in one of the local languages.
I might add that I was not a Latin scholar, having as much trouble with 'ut' and the subjunctive as anyone. However, I think medicinal Latin was a very useful attribute and I do regret its loss.
Australian Council for Safety and Quality Working Party comments
John Youngman, Chair, Australian Council for Safety and Quality Working Party, Standard Medication Chart, comments:
Medication errors are a significant cause of harm to patients. Standardisation of processes and their constituent components has been demonstrated to reduce medication errors. In April 2004 Australian health ministers agreed to support the introduction of the National Inpatient Medication Chart into public health facilities by mid-2006. The Australian Council for Safety and Quality in Health Care formed a working party to develop the chart which will be pilot tested in 30 public and private facilities. This national chart will build on the content and implementation of a standard chart used in Queensland public hospitals.
The National Inpatient Medication Chart is underpinned by a core set of principles and an agreed set of abbreviations, particularly focusing on the prescribing and administration of medicines in hospitals. Medication administration guidelines adopt 'mane' for morning, 'nocte' for night, 'bd' for twice a day, 'tds' for three times a day, 'qid' for four times a day, and for the administration of antibiotics '6 hrly' and '8 hrly'. Such standardisation will enable medical and nursing staff moving across facilities to use the same abbreviations and so reduce the likelihood of a misunderstanding or a mistake in the prescribing, dispensing and administration of medications to patients.