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Keys to Learning Medical Terminology

An understanding of Medical Terminology is a vitally important trait for individuals working in a number of roles in the medical field. Find out a few helpful hints and tips on mastering this essential subject.

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.

But, 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. 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.

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). For example the root word “patho” means “of or relating to a disease” and the suffix “logy” means “the study of a [certain subject],” so pathology is the study of disease. Breaking down words in this way reduces the amount of memorization you’ll have to do to master medical terminology.

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

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. 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 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

When learning new words, try to pace yourself. It’s nearly impossible to learn 20 new terms at once so break up that list and aim for 5-7 each week. Once you’ve mastered the first group of words, move on to the next but don’t forget to go back and review terms from previous weeks so you don’t forget them!

If you keep these study techniques in mind as you work toward your degree, you could make studying easier and more fun!

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