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Pharmacology for Nurses

B | Common Abbreviations and Lab Values

Pharmacology for NursesB | Common Abbreviations and Lab Values

Nurses are required to review and interpret lab values. Table B1 lists common abbreviations, and Table B2 lists common lab values for nurses to learn.

Abbreviation Meaning Abbreviation Meaning
cells/mcL or cells/µL Cells per microliter mg/dL Milligrams per deciliter
cells/mL Cells per milliliter (cubic centimeter) microunits/mL Microunits per milliliter
cm Centimeter mL Milliliter
fl oz Fluid ounce mL/minute Milliliters per minute
fL Femtoliter mm Millimeter
g Gram mm3 Cubic millimeter
g/dL Grams per deciliter mm Hg Millimeters of mercury
HPF High-power field mmol/L Millimoles per liter
IU International unit ng/mL Nanograms per milliliter
kg Kilogram oz Ounce
L Liter pg/mL Picograms per milliliter
lb or # Pound Tbsp Tablespoon
mcg/dL or µg/dL Micrograms per deciliter tsp Teaspoon
mEq/L Milliequivalents per liter units/L Units per liter
mg Milligram
Table B1 Common Abbreviations

Note that the abbreviation for “micro” is sometimes shown as the Greek mu (µ, as in µL); however, that practice is considered to be error prone by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices and has been supplanted by “mc,” as in “mcg” for microgram or “mcL” for microliter.

Arterial Blood Gases
Base excess/base deficit –2 to +2 mEq/L   HCO3 22–26 mEq/L   PaCO2 35–45 mm Hg
PaO2 75–100 mm Hg pH 7.35–7.45 SaO2 95%–100%
Serum Blood Tests
Albumin 3.5–5.5 g/dL   Glucose (fasting) 70–99 mg/dL   MCV 80–98 fL
Alk phos 30–120 units/L Glucose tolerance test (Start) 70–100 mg/dL
(1 hour) <180 mg/dL
(2 hours) <140 mg/dL
Monocytes 4000–11,000 cells/mcL
ALT 10–40 units/L Neutrophils 2000–8250 cells/mcL
Ammonia 40–70 mcg/dL Phosphorus 3.0–4.5 mg/dL
Amylase 3–125 units/L Platelet count 150–450 × 109/L
AST 10–40 units/L HDL (F) >50 mg/dL
(M) >40 mg/dL
Potassium 3.5–5.0 mEq/L
Bicarb (HCO3) 23–28 mEq/L Hematocrit (F) 37%–47%
(M) 42%–50%
Protein 5.5–9.0 g/dL
Bilirubin, total 0.3–1.0 mg/dL PT
11–13 seconds
25–35 seconds
BNP 0–100 pg/mL Hemoglobin (F) 12–16 g/dL
(M) 14–18 g/ dL
RBC (F) 4.2–5.4 million/mm3
(M) 4.7–6.1 million/mm3
BUN 8–20 mg/dL
Calcium 8.6–10.2 mg/ dL HgbA1c 4.0%–5.6% RDW 9.0%–14.5%
Chloride 98–106 mEq/L INR 0.8–1.2 seconds SaO2 95%–100%
Cholesterol <200 mg/dL Iron 50–150 mcg/ dL Sodium 136–145 mEq/L
CK (F) 30–135 units/L
(M) 55–170 units/L
Lactic acid (Art) <0.6 mmol/L
(Ven) 0.7–1.8 mmol/L
Triglycerides (fasting) <150 mg/dL
CO2 (CMP) 23–30 mEq/L LDL <130 mg/dL Troponin T 0–0.01 ng/mL
Creatinine (F) 0.5–1.10 mg/dL
(M) 0.70–1.30 mg/dL
Lipase 10–140 units/L TSH 0.4–6 mcg/mL
D-dimer <0.5 mcg/mL Lymphocytes 20–40 × 109/L WBC 5000–10,000/mL
GFR ≥90 mL/minute Magnesium 1.6–2.6 mEq/L
Miscellaneous Tests
Fungal (yeast) culture Negative  
Sputum culture Negative
Urine Tests
Bacteria Negative   Color Yellow–amber   pH 4.5–8.0
Bilirubin Negative Glucose Negative Protein ≤150 mg/dL
Blood Negative Ketones Negative Specific gravity 1.002
Casts 0–5 HPF Leukocytes Negative WBC 0–5 HPF
Clarity Clear Nitrates Negative Yeast Negative
Table B2 Common Lab Values (sources:;;;;;

Note: The reference values provided in these tables should be used as guidelines only,as they can vary by testing laboratory, instrument type, and demographics of the healthy client population used for comparison. Always use your facility’s lab value guidelines for interpretation or testing. In the Next Generation NCLEX exams, assessment items that contain a numeric laboratory value will include the corresponding normal reference range. See NCLEX FAQs.


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