I'm writing a story where the main character gets burned pretty badly. He's admitted into the hospital, and he's on a trolley, which is moving. He just got in, and he's in critical condition. I'm thinking third degree burns (he got lit on fire by a barrel of gasoline.) There are doctors around him, and they're are where the dialogue comes from.

So, the problem is: I don't know hospital jargon/dialogue. He just got admitted, remember. I also don't know how they would treat him, and what procedures they would perform on the spot.

  • 1
    Hopefully you will get some good answers here. If you do not, it might be worth asking this question on a forum for doctors, nurses, or medical students; I'm sure they'd be happy to help you Jun 16, 2016 at 19:14
  • @NickWeinberg thanks I might try that if this doesn't turn up any results.
    – user19352
    Jun 16, 2016 at 19:14

3 Answers 3


I like to do in person research. In my experience I've had many people more than happy to let me use them as the basis for a character, or learn terms I need to know. Try hanging out at the emergency room entrance, or visiting a burn ward, and asking the patients about their treatment. A lot of my soldier jargon I get from my friends and family who are veterans, and they're always more than happy to give me information to make my portrayal real, and convincing.


First thing of emergency treatment is vital signs and airway--blood pressure, heart rate, respirations, and pulse oxygenation of the blood. Burning gasoline will produce volatile vapors which will also cause inhalation injury to the laryngeal and pulmonary mucosa. A pulse ox less than 85% will result in intubation; otherwise supplemental oxygenation with a mask is the norm.

It hurts like hell. Placement of an IV, probably a central line, would be one of the first orders of business with administration of about 10 milligrams of morphine IV. This is a lot of morphine (IV). Fluid loss can be a big deal for a serious burn. An IV might start at half normal saline with 20 milliequivalents per liter of potassium at 100 millilters an hour.

The patient will then likely head to the ICU where he'll get some combination of antibiotics (burns weren't my specialty). If you want to pick something, I'd say ampicillan and gentamycin, but you could Wikipedia "burns"and go with whatever they list, or you could just say, "give him something to cover the skin flora."

Cold packs will be used on the second-degree burns, and a plastic surgeon will be called potentially to debride the third-degree burns.

The patient will go to a burn unit, which is essentially a clean room, wrapped in light gauze and given a shit-ton of pain medication. In fiction, it might be better to give an impression this is a lot rather than just a number like "If I give you any more you'll overdose and die."

As recovery progresses, you can do something cool like use medical maggots to eat away the dead tissue. Systemic infections are the biggest problem, and the most likely cause of death, especially if the lung tissue was burned resulting in various forms of pneumonia.


I really like writing hospital scenes. Can't help with the treatment, but from my experience there are two types of doctors:

  1. The sugarcoat These tend to have dialogue like "You'll be just fine!" and "It's not even that bad!"
  2. The honest one These people will tell it as it is, no doubt about it. They cut right to the point, and will not lie about the patients condition.

From my experience, every hospital has one of each. Which one your character will get, you choose.

Hope this helped!

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