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Entering the medical field? Be prepared to learn to speak the language

Kerry Barnard wants students to understand that as medical professionals, they will be bilingual.

“The medical field has a language all its own,” he said. “For students to be successful, they’re going to have to be speaking to highly educated colleagues fluently in medical terminology.”

That’s why in his class, AHLT100 Medical Terminology, he stresses that understanding a medical term on paper and being able to use it in conversation are two very different, yet equally important skills. 

“When they are in a clinical setting they need to be able to understand complex medical information,” Barnard said. “It’s very important and students need to understand and put the time into learning a medical language. The same time they would put in if they were learning a second language.”

For example, he said, a surgical scheduler needs to understand the medical terminology the physician is using to properly schedule a patient for the correct surgery. If the scheduler doesn’t understand the type of surgery being performed, they may not know what complex to book.

If, as a scheduler, you can’t decipher basic information, your day just becomes more complicated.

And, Barnard stresses, the medical community rarely gives on the job lessons.

“I always tell my students, everything has to be fast and accurate. The physicians and nurse practitioners are not going to slow things down and give you a lesson on how to decipher these things,” Barnard said. “They are just going to give you the minimal amount of information you need to complete the task.”

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