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EMT Mnemonics and Medical Acronyms


Here are Common EMS Abbreviations and EMT Acronyms used by healthcare workers. Included are medical acronyms like PERRLA, AVPU, OPQRST, DCAP BTLS, and more. Want to know what a SAMPLE history is and what an APGAR score of 2 means? Check out these great patient assessment tools below.


→ If you are looking for shorter medical abbreviations like CVA stands for Cerebral Vascular Accident”  check out the Medical Abbreviations page.


To start, it’s important to clarify the common question: 

What does EMT stand for?

 EMT stands for Emergency Medical Technician


Common EMS Abbreviations & EMT Acronyms

The SAMPLE history is used to get a medical history from patients during medical assessment in the field. There is a detailed guide for taking both a SAMPLE history and OPQRST EMT pain assessment here, for more information about these EMT skills.

The SAMPLE acronym stands for: SAMPLE

→ Signs and Symptoms
→ Allergies
→ Medications
→ Past Medical History
→ Last oral intake
→ Events leading up to injury (Used for Medical Assessments)



The OPQRST EMT tool is a valuable assessment option for EMS. OPQRST can be used to assess a patient’s pain or chief complaint. The OPQRST EMT pain assessment tool helps the emergency medical technician get a clear picture of what’s bothering their patient and can be especially useful for chest pain.

The OPQRST acronym stands for: OPQRST

→ Onset
→ Provocation
→ Quality
→ Radiation
→ Severity
→ Time (Used for Pain Assessment, chief complaint)


PASTE is used by EMTs as a respiratory assessment tool. The PASTE acronym can be used instead of OPQRST for patients experiencing shortness of breath (SOB). 

The PASTE mnemonic stands for: PASTE

→ Provoking Factors
→ Associated Pain
→ Sputum
→ Time of Onset, Temperature
→ Exacerbation, Exercise


The AVPU EMT tool is used to determine a patient’s responsiveness and level of consciousness in the field.

The AVPU acronym stands for: AVPU

→ Alert
→ Verbal
→ Painful
→ Unresponsive (Used for Level of Responsiveness)


The DCAP BTLS assessment tool is used by EMS for patients with traumatic injuries to quickly find abnormalities. DCAP BTLS is often used for Rapid Trauma Assessment of patients to quickly determine the extent of damage to different parts of the body.

The DCAP BTLS EMT tool can also have additional mnemonics added on and be used for the more detailed secondary assessment. Two examples of extended mnemonics are DCAP BTLS TIC and DCAP BTLS PMS. PMS is used for assessment of the extremities after a trauma.

The DCAP acronym stands for: DCAP 

EMT Mnemonics Infogram→ Deformities
→ Contusions
→ Abrasions
→ Punctures

The BTLS acronym stands for: BTLS

→ Burns
→ Tenderness
→ Lacerations
→ Swelling

The TIC acronym stands for: TIC

→ Tenderness
→ Instability
→ Crepitation

The PMS acronym stands for: PMS

→ Pulse
→ Motor
→ Sensory


Sometimes the PERRLA eye exam is also referred to as PEARL and PERRL. The PERRLA eye exam is a pupillary assessment and neurological examination that EMS personnel can do in the field.

The PERRLA acronym stands for: PERRLA

→ Pupils
→ Equal
→ Round &
→ Reactive to
→ Light &
→ Accommodation

PEARL stands for Pupils Equal and Reactive to Light.
PERRL stands for Pupils Equal Round and Reactive to Light.


The START acronym is a specific system set up for EMS to triage a scene with a large number of patients. The START system is designed to be a very rapid assessment that categorizes treatment priority of patients in under a minute for rescuers who will come later and provide treatment. START RPM is a common acronym because RPM is the method the system uses for triage assessment at mass casualty incidents.

The START acronym stands for: START

→ Simple
→ Triage
→ And
→ Rapid
→ Treatment

The RPM acronym stands for: RPM

→ Respirations
→ Perfusions
→ Mental Status


AEIOU TIPS is a mnemonic used by healthcare workers to assess patients with an altered mental status. The AEIOU TIPS EMT tool is very useful for EMS to try and figure out what the cause of their patients altered level of consciousness (ALOC) is. 

The AEIOU TIPS acronym stands for: AEIOU TIPS

→ Alcohol
→ Epilepsy
→ Insulin (hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia)
→ Overdose/Oxygen
→ Uremia/ Underdose (Not medication compliant)
→ Trauma/Thermal
→ Infection (Sepsis)
→ Psychiatric/Poison
→ Stroke/Shock



The SLUDGE mnemonic is also called Sludge Syndrome and describes the signs and symptoms of Organophosphate poisoning and exposure to nerve agents. SLUDGE describes the cholinergic effects in the body which cause the overstimulation commonly seen in a cholinergic crisis.

The SLUDGE acronym stands for: SLUDGE

→ Salivation
→ Lacrimation
→ Urination
→ Defecation
→ Gastro-intestinal Distress
→ Emesis


APGAR Score at Birth

The APGAR test is a rapid head to toe newborn assessment tool. EMTs take the newborn’s APGAR score at one minute and five minutes after delivery to quickly determine if any treatments need to be done. 


Apgar score Newborn Baby Assessment


The APGAR test is made up of 5 categories that each have possible scoring from 0-2. (So an APGAR score of 2 in each category will equal a total score of 10 points.) APGAR stands for each of the five categories newborns are tested on, these are listed below.


The total APGAR score can range from 0-10 points. If the newborn’s APGAR score is 7 or more points, they will only need routine care (blanket for warmth, etc) and another APGAR test 5 minutes after being born.


If the newborn has an APGAR score of 4-6 points they need some assistance from the EMT (suction mouth, stimulation, etc) and a retest to check for improvement 5 minutes after being born. If the newborn has an APGAR score of 3 or less they need immediate Advanced Life Support initiated.


A low APGAR score at birth doesn’t mean the baby will have chronic health issues. It’s common for a newborn to score less than 10 on their first APGAR score and then go on to be healthy and happy babies. 

The APGAR acronym stands for: APGAR

→ Activity
→ Pulse
→ Grimace
→ Appearance
→ Respirations

APGAR Score Infographic
A score below 3 requires immediate ALS: 4-6 may need some assistance: 7-10 only needs normal care.


Interested in more EMT topics?

Still need to pass the National Registry EMT Exam? Get started with 10 Tips for Passing the NREMT Cognitive Exam!


• Do you know the special precautions needed for electrocution patients? Find them in our extensive Electrical burn injury guide for EMS


Looking for EMS gear? Our Boot buying Guide & Top 10 EMT Boot List has everything you need!


Interested in medical terminology? Check out Basic Medical Terminology for the EMT!



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