Prescription Abbreviations: How to Understand Your Medical Shorthand

Prescription Abbreviations: How to Understand Your Medical Shorthand

It’s a bit wild how it is considered a joke that doctors have terrible handwriting that you can’t decipher, but it truly is an actual reality. We are often handed prescriptions or notes that look like a completely separate language to us, and it actually kind of is.

Doctors often use medical shorthand symbols when it comes to prescribing medications and more because it is simpler, more comfortable, and faster for them to do. It doesn’t matter if we cannot translate as a patient though, because nurses and pharmacists are trained to do so.

Thank goodness, because that stuff can be impossible to understand even if you’re used to messy handwriting. Doctor’s handwriting is definitely notorious for being illegible, and obviously, they are busy people with a lot going on and don’t have time to be worried about the elegance of their script. Who can blame them?

Understanding the Medical Shorthand

If you have to see a doctor a lot and have medications prescribed to you, then it may be to your benefit to learn a bit about medical shorthand. Why? Well, the answer is relatively easy. The more you can know about what you are being prescribed and how to translate it, the less likely there is for someone to make an error.

You’ll be looking out for your own benefit, truly.

You want to be able to make sure what the pharmacy gives you matches what the doctor has given you, and by knowing medical shorthand, you can be sure to understand it.

Electronic prescribing is also a super common method now because it is easier, more reliable, and gets you your prescriptions very quickly, which can be helpful when you need them immediately.

This means your prescription is printed and you don’t have to try and translate your doctors pesky hard to read handwriting. Ah, the era of technology at its best.

Generic and Brand Name

Many drugs you may know by their brand name, but they also have a generic name, and your doctor can prescribe both. So Clonazepam would be the brand name your doctor prescribes, and your pharmacist can give you Klonopin, as that is the generic version of the medication.

If DAW is written on your prescription, then it means that your pharmacist has to give you exactly what is written on your prescription and cannot give you a generic version to save on costs. DAW means “dispense as written”.

Reading It

The hardest complication is to understand what your prescription says entirely.

Usually, it includes all your personal information like name and address, then the date and name of the prescribing doctor and their office. Then it tells you what medication you are being prescribed, the correct dosage, how often to take it, when to take it, and how to take it.

Some medications need to be taken at the same time each day or with food so that these instructions can be crucial.

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