I was in the hospital the other day. A doctor prescribed me serum. How could I say this? Can I use "shot"? Like "I got a shot yesterday"?

And what can a nurse say when they do this to you? "I (the nurse) give him (a patient) a shot/serum"?

I don't know if you use serum in this situation so this picture is also attached to prevent any ambiguity about what I meant by serum.

4 Answers 4


The picture is of someone "getting an IV". A nurse would "administer an IV" or simply "give an IV".

(On TV a doctor might yell at a nurse to, "Start an IV stat!" or, "Get an IV started with 250 milligrams of isopropylwhambamthankyoumamamine stat!" -- but the few times I've been witness to actual real life emergency rooms, they never said anything like that.)

I went into the emergency room and they found my electrolytes were really low, so they gave me an IV.

While my father was in the hospital they administered all his medications through an IV.

"IV" is short for "intravenous drip", but you hear the phrase all the time on television so many people will know what "IV" means.

  • 1
    In AusEng I think people are more likely to call it a "drip" than an "IV". Jan 7, 2017 at 1:47
  • @curiousdannii this is why I said we need more Aussies on here!
    – Andrew
    Jan 7, 2017 at 2:46
  • @Andrew thanks for the answer. you used a long interesting phrase here. what's that supposed to mean? ''wham bam thank you mam' stat''
    – Masih K
    Jan 7, 2017 at 9:09
  • 1
    @MasihK it's from a classic rock song "Suffragette City" by the recently deceased David Bowie. I have no idea exactly what it means in that song but here I threw it in as a kind of a joke -- in medical dramas on TV, the actors often say these long medical terms which are probably accurate but which the audience might not know are accurate. So they could say any nonsense and the audience wouldn't care.
    – Andrew
    Jan 7, 2017 at 15:12
  • 1
    "Stat" is a medical term which means "right away!". Again you hear it yelled a lot on medical dramas, but not so much when I worked in a hospital (although they do write it on medical orders).
    – Andrew
    Jan 7, 2017 at 15:14

A "shot" would be typically used to refer to a syringe, which is a handheld needle of some kind. "Serum" is a liquid component of blood.

What you have pictured there is an "intravenous drip", presumably full of blood plasma or "serum" to replace lost fluid. While both a "shot" and an "intravenous drip" or "IV" both use a needle, the words are not used interchangeably.

  • 1
    A 'serum' may be the content of the IV or of the shot. Allergy shots are often a 'serum'. The picture is not a shot, it is an IV, as you state.
    – MikeP
    Jan 6, 2017 at 22:58

Yes you can use the term

shot (in the arm)

for a serum or vaccine which is administered using a needle and syringe either under your skin subcutaneous (sub-Q) or intramuscular (IM).

It can also be called a



A more formal term for a “shot” is injection.


    something (as a medication) that is injected

        to force a fluid into (as for medical purposes)
        <inject a drug into the bloodstream>

Macmillan Dictionary:

    a drug or another substance that is injected into your body
    He needs a daily injection of insulin.

Medical dictionary (thefreedictionary.com):

  • the forcing of a liquid into a part, …
  • a substance so forced or administered; in pharmacy, a solution of a medicament suitable for injection.

This refers to the use of a handheld hypodermic needle:

          hypodermic needle
          [Original image source: http://dosagemayvary.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/162223080.0.jpg ]

containing some sort of liquid drug or medicine, being manually inserted into a patient’s body — usually (but not always) into the arm:

          injection into arm
          [Original image source: http://www.proprofs.com/flashcards/upload/q10231646.jpg ]

The word “hypodermic” is formed from hypo + dermic.  “Hypo” means under, and “dermic” refers to skin.

And yes, you can use the word “shot” as in “I got a shot yesterday” and “the nurse gave the patient a shot” — if that’s what happened (but not for your picture).

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