7 Ways to Learn Medical Terminology

An understanding of Medical Terminology is a vitally important trait for individuals working in a number of roles in the medical field, so you need to discover helpful hints and study tips to master the language of medicine.

If you are earning a medical administration degree the difference between osteopathology and osteoporosis is as important to your future career as a chef knowing the difference between a tablespoon and a teaspoon. Even in clinical roles that involve little or no direct patient care knowing medical terminology is a big part of the job.Medical coder sitting a desk reviewing a file.

However, you don’t have to memorize an entire medical dictionary to develop a strong vocabulary. Once you start to understand a few key things about the words, it will be easier to recall their definitions.

Get your Greek (and Latin) on

Nearly all medical terms come from Greek or Latin words. Chances are you didn’t study either of these languages in high school but you still use words every day that stem from Greek or Latin roots. For example, angel, holistic and microscope all have Greek origins. Try thinking about how words you know match the meanings of new medical terms you learn. You can also download lists or "cheat sheets" that cover the most common medical roots, prefixes, and suffixes. Having this list as a guide and reference point will help you quickly understand any term that comes your way.

See the patterns in words

Most medical terms can be broken down into smaller parts. These parts are typically a combination of a root word (the base of the word), a prefix (the first few letters of a word), and a suffix (the ending of a word). Many aspects of medical vocabulary will also be taught with an emphasis on abbreviations as these are used in hospitals when interpreting notes from a physician. For example, the word pathology means "the study of disease". How do we know? The root word “patho” means “of or relating to a disease” and the suffix “logy” means “the study of a [certain subject]”. Knowing this, we can then assume that words with similar roots have related meanings. Examples include cardiology (study of the heart), dermatology (study of the skin), and gastroenterology (study of the stomach). Breaking down words in this way reduces the amount of memorization you’ll have to do to master complex medical terms.

In addition to understanding more about the structure and origins of the word, there are some memorization tricks you can try.

Use Acronyms

While using acronyms can take some initial creative thinking, they are extremely effective when trying to memorize groups of related words. Once you have a group of words, take the first letter from each and rearrange them to form something that will be easy to remember. For example, if you are trying to recollect the side effects of amoxicillin (diarrhea, upset stomach, headache, skin rash, and abnormal taste), you can rearrange these letters to form a meaningful phrase you will remember, such as U DASH. The main benefit of this method is that each acronym is relevant and created by you, so it can be easier to recall later.

Imagine it

Connecting visual imagery with new vocabulary words is a great association technique. When you are studying medical terminology, try to picture each word. The more specific and detailed of an image you can picture the more the word will be imprinted in your brain. For example for encephalitis, an acute inflammation of the brain, you might try picturing a helium balloon in the shape of a brain being inflated. As you picture it think about the color of the balloon, how big it is and exactly how it is growing.

Flash cards

Flash cards are a tried-and-true way to learn new words because they are a visual cue that will help you connect with the terminology you're learning. Writing the term you are trying to learn on one side and the definition on the other side can be a helpful memorization technique. You can quiz yourself while waiting at the bus stop, right before bed, while you’re getting your haircut or anytime you have a spare moment. And, if you want to bring your flash cards into the digital world there are plenty of study apps like Ankidroid, StudyDroid, Dictonary.com Flashcards, Chegg Flashcards and StudyBlue.

Medical Term Bingo

Similar to creating your own flash cards, you can also create your own Bingo game. Create a bingo grid with a set of terms you want to learn and a stack of answer cards with the definitions written on them. The great part about this technique is you can play with people like a group of friends or your mom with little or no healthcare background.

Slow and steady

Keep these study techniques in mind as you work toward your medical degree as it could make studying easier and more fun.

If you are considering a degree upgrade where you can take a medical terminology course, consider one of Bryant & Stratton College's healthcare programs. Request more information about Bryant & Stratton College today.






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