Whether you are training to becoming a multi-skilled medical assistant, a patient care technician or a medical administrative assistant, learning medical terminology is an essential part of your education. At Helms College’s School of Health Services, we offer career-relevant courses—including a medical terminology course—to help you become a qualified candidate for a health care position.
In addition to the quality education you can receive at Helms College, there are many tips and tools you can use to gain a firm understanding of the complex terms and concepts in the medical field. We have compiled a few of these for you to use as you pursue your academic and professional career in the medical field.
Learn the medical root words
Root words are the main part or central meaning of larger words. In medical terminology, many of these are derived from Greek or Latin. All the root words are used to comprise basic medical terminology. Some of these which may be familiar to you include: “cardi/o,” which refers to the heart, “gastr/o,” which refers to the stomach, and “pharmac/o,” which refers to drugs.1
Know your medical prefixes and suffixes
In addition to some of the root words, learning commonly-used prefixes and suffixes will help you to better break down more complex medical terms. For instance, the prefix “mal” means bad or poor, so when you combine “mal” with “nutrition,” you have the word “malnutrition.” The suffix “ac” means “pertaining to,” so when you combine the root “cardi” with the suffix “ac,” you get the word “cardiac,” which means “pertaining to the heart.”2
Once you have a firm understanding of medical root words, as well as the common prefixes and suffixes, you can put them all together to more effectively learn and understand medical terminology.
Create your own acronyms
It may sound daunting at first, but once you learn to create simple acronyms out of complex medical terminology definitions, you will forever memorize them. To do this, take the first letter of each word in your group of related words and form a single new word or phrase that is easy to remember.
Here is an example from the American Institute of Medical Sciences & Education:
Let’s say you want to memorize the causes of erythema nodosum (definition: inflammation of the fat under the skin). This condition is usually caused by drugs, infections, pregnancy, OCP, ulcerative colitis or tuberculosis.3 We take the initial letter of each cause and see if we can create a meaningful word or phrase. In this case, we get the acronym “DIP OUT,” derived from the causes drugs, infections, pregnancy, OCP, ulcerative colitis, and tuberculosis.
With these techniques at your disposal, you can create your own acronyms for many different areas of medical terminology, including groups of diseases, treatments and many different body parts.
Use apps and other guides
There is no shortage of tools and guides for you to use on the web, including apps developed for IOS and Android devices. Here are a few you can search for to you started:
- MCAT Flashcards – Kaplan National Practice Test
- Taber’s Medical Dictionary
- Med Term Scramble
- Learn Medical Terminology4
Launch your medical career today
If learning and understanding new concepts in the medical field is something that interests you, launching your career at the Helms College’s School of Health Services may be the perfect next step. And knowing medical terminology will be essential in this exciting career path. Whether you want to be a patient care technician, a multi-skilled medical assistant or a medical administrative assistant, cultivating your knowledge of medical terminology and concepts will be vital to your career.