Tips for Learning Medical Terminology

If you are going into any health-related field, understanding medical terminology will be the foundation of everything. It’s an essential skill to have if you want to work in the medical field. When studying medical terminology, you will learn terms related to anatomy and physiology, as well as different diagnoses, conditions, and treatments. Nearly all medical terms come from Latin or Greek words, so you have to study the root words, prefixes, and suffixes. The process of learning medical terminology can be a rather long and tedious one, though. It’s important to identify what type of learner you are, and by doing that, you can find a learning style that fits you best.

Here are some tips on studying medical terminology:

  1. Create your own acronyms

One way to learn medical terminology is by creating your own acronyms. You can do this by taking one letter of each word or a group of related words, and forming a single new word or a phrase. It may take a little bit to actually come up with the acronyms, but in the end, it will save you a lot of time. You can then create your own lists and group together certain categories, like diseases and body parts.

  1. Use apps

There are many apps designed to help you learn medical terminology. They help you memorize the most common medical terms through short and clear definitions. Most of them allow you to search for any prefix or suffix, scroll through the terms in alphabetical order, study with flashcards, and even take quizzes to test your comprehension of the material.

Some apps include:

Medscape: Medscape is sort of like a universal reference book. The application is completely free, and it includes news from the world of medicine, original articles, clinical images, video games for research, and tests. The interface is pretty simple, and it is commonly used among practitioners as well.

Medical Terminology: This app is designed not only for people who work in healthcare, but also for people who want to have a better understanding of different diseases on their own.

Taber’s Medical Dictionary: This online dictionary has more than 65,000 terms, 600 patient care statements, 32,000 audio pronunciations, and more than 100 videos.

Eponyms: An eponym is a name (as of a drug or disease) based on or derived from the name of a person. When studying medical terminology, you will notice that a lot of the terms are eponyms. This app has a description of over 1,800 common medical eponyms.

Medical Terms EN: This app has thousands of different medical terms, as well as voice-enabled search with word predictions.

  1. Create guides and workbooks

In addition to your medical books and dictionaries, you can also use different guides and workbooks. These provide you with tips for how to better understand the information you are consuming, and they allow you to test your knowledge of the material.

Here are some helpful guides and workbooks:

Medical Terminology Made Easy: This guide offers a complete breakdown of medical terminology. It provides root words, suffixes, and prefixes.

Quick Medical Terminology: A Self-Teaching Guide: This book provides multiple tools to help you get started. It includes real-life examples and exercises to help you memorize the material.

Medical Terminology for Health Professions: This workbook provides learning exercises in the text, as well as 75 questions per chapter which emphasize the use of word parts in learning key terminology.

  1. Memorize root words 

Medical terminology is based on Latin and Greek roots words. By focusing on understanding the word parts and using this system consistently, you will have an easier time learning medical terminology. For example, if you know that “itis” means inflammation, then you’ve already figured out half of the word, and you can apply that to other similar words as well. Additionally, most words are typically pretty long, so instead of learning them one by one, just focus on learning the common Latin or Greek roots, prefixes, and suffixes.

It’s also important to keep in mind that medical terms can be formed using several different combinations. Moreover, it’s also possible that a word may contain more than one root word.

  • root + suffix
  • prefix + root
  • prefix + root + suffix
  1. Use the power of visualization

The brain typically has an easier time retaining information when it is presented with visual imagery. When you are studying your med terms, try to picture each word. The more specific you are, the better. Connecting visual imagery with vocab words is a good technique to use because your brain will have an easier time retaining the information that you learn.

  1. Repetition is key

Although this may get a little boring after some time, the easiest way to remember your med terms is through repetition. The brain remembers better when it is presented with the same information over and over again. You can write down your med terms until you feel like you have them down, listen to them on repeat, or whatever else works for you. By practicing repetition, the words will start to become ingrained in your brain.

  1. Figure out your learning style

One of the easiest ways to speed up your study time is to figure out how you learn best. Are you a visual learner? Auditory? Kinesthetic? Once you figure out what type of learner you are, you can use that to your advantage, and find a studying technique that fits your learning style. This will speed up the learning process, and you might actually find that you enjoy it more instead of forcing yourself to learn through a method that isn’t for you.

For example, if you are a visual learner (also called a spatial learner), you understand and retain information when it is presented in a visual way. This includes seeing things, such as pictures, diagrams, written directions, etc. Additionally, you may need more time to process information, so regardless of how you are learning, make sure to give yourself enough time to absorb the information.

If you are an auditory learner, this means that you learn better when a subject is reinforced by sound. This could include reading written material/notes, listening to lectures, or even using your own voice to speak your thoughts and reinforce what you are learning. If you are an auditory learner, make sure to set up your environment in such a way that you are able to actively use this learning style without being interrupted.

Being a kinesthetic learner (sometimes called tactile learner) means that you like to learn by experiencing or doing things yourself. Perhaps you like to act out events or you are a hands-on type of person. If you are a kinesthetic learner, make sure to take a lot of breaks, and also incorporate movement into your study time. Perhaps you can get a whiteboard and use that to write stuff down, or move around while you’re reading. Creating an environment for yourself where you are able to physically sense what you are learning can help you break down complex ideas into concepts that are easier to understand.

There is also a reading/writing type of learner. This learning style suggests that you are able to absorb more information through reading and writing text, as opposed to visual imagery and symbolism. You need to read and/or write down the information to really learn it. This is often the easiest learning style to incorporate because schools already base their curriculum around reading material and essay writing.

  1. Look for patterns

Learning how to see patterns will make studying medical terminology a whole lot easier. The majority of medical terms can be broken down into smaller parts. This consists of a combination of the root word (this is also called the base of the world), the prefix (the first few letters of a word), and the suffix (the ending of a word). Abbreviations are also a significant part of learning medical terminology. Medical professionals use them all the time as it is their way of communicating and treating patients. Breaking down words and learning how to see patterns can help you master medical terminology.

  1. Flashcards

Using flashcards is a simple but effective way to learn your med terms. This goes back to repetition. The brain loves repetition, and the more times you present it with the same information over and over again, the easier it will be to remember that information. Flashcards also relate to visual imagery because they create a visual for you. Even though it’s not a picture, you are looking at the written vocab word and definition, and this can help your brain in making that connection. You can also take flashcards with you wherever you go. When you have a spare moment or some dead time, you can take them out and use them to study. If you don’t want to carry around a deck of cards, you can use digital flashcards. There are many online apps that allow you to create your own flashcards, or even use existing ones, if they have the content that you are looking for. Some of these apps include Chegg Flashcards, Dictionary.com, StudyBlue.com, Quizlet, and Anki.

Knowing medical terminology is the foundation for working in any health-related field. Medicine is a language of its own, and learning medical terminology can take some practice and dedication. But by being consistent, figuring out what type of learner you are, and incorporating various study techniques, you can make the process much easier and more enjoyable for yourself.

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