Entering the medical field does not only require good mechanics. You can have the best suturing skills or the steadiest hands, but you must also communicate effectively with your peers. In the medical field, this means mastering the language of medicine.
Learning medical terminology is one of the most tedious challenges for students. However, it helps medical professionals avoid miscommunication and saves time documenting patients. Memorizing is difficult because you have to digest mass amounts of information.
But with the right approach, you can set yourself up for success. This guide covers ten strategies not only to memorize but learn medical terminology. Read on to discover more!
1. Identify Your Learning Style
The easiest way to learn new things is to learn them your way. Setting up your environment to fit your learning style can help you digest information faster.
65% of people are visual learners, meaning they may learn better if they have an image to connect it to. Other visual learners use different colored highlighters in their notes. If you're a visual learner, it may help to set up diagrams or pictures when studying.
Auditory learners learn best when they hear it directly. You can record your professor's lectures and play them back during your study time.
If you like hands-on activities, you may be more of a tactile or kinesthetic learner. These types of learners prefer to write and move around. You may need an environment that enables you to move around while reading.
Finally, we have the readers, who rely on text more than images to absorb information. When studying, you can copy your notes from your lecture and rewrite them in a new notebook or binder. Doing this can also help you create more organized notes when you need a quick study.
2. Visualize the Words
Even if you are not a visual learner, it may help to incorporate some visual learning techniques into your study routine. The brain can process images as fast as 13 milliseconds. Your brain is constantly trying to associate concepts with words, and you can use this to your advantage.
Finding images to associate with medical terms can allow for easier recall. If you can assign an image to each medical term, it will help you learn terminologies faster. This can also make studying more interesting and fun.
Encephalitis refers to an acute inflammation of the brain. Imagine a brain getting pumped with helium to the size of a hot air balloon. Try to be as descriptive as possible when imagining visuals.
You can make the image as silly or morbid as you want. The brain tends to forget ordinary things, and it may not help when memorizing many medical terms.
A concept map is another popular visual learning strategy you can use. Start by identifying the main concept. When studying medical terminology, this can be the root word of a term or the part of the body affected.
Organize the information through points. For example, if your main concept is the heart, you can divide your concept map into different diseases.
You can also create concept maps for each medical terminology you're trying to learn. Start with the word cardiology. Under the word, add its meaning and abbreviation.
3. Download Games or Learning Apps on Your Phone
People are on their phones 24/7. Some medical students like to keep their notes there or listen back to lectures they saved. Another great way to use your phone as a learning tool is to download games or apps.
A great advantage of memory games and apps is that they're mobile. This makes it much easier to carry your study material as opposed to heavy books. You can use these apps during your commute, lunch break, or while waiting for the next lecture to start.
These apps are also designed to be fun and engaging. Many learning apps incorporate a game-like design with daily and weekly rewards.
Learning apps offer a simplified version of the terminology you're trying to learn. This can be a huge advantage if you have trouble understanding certain terms. The app can break it down into something easier to understand.
If you get distracted easily, you can download an app that locks your access to social media. You can customize it in a way that only the learning apps are available. You can also set a time to disable certain apps to promote a healthier balance between studying and personal life.
4. Follow the Physiological System
Medicine is a broad field, so it can be difficult to learn different terminologies in bulk. Burnout is common in students and can discourage them from studying or push them to do unhealthy coping mechanisms.
If you think you're digesting too much information all at once, it might be time to lessen your load. A great way to do this is to organize your learning to relevant body systems. Doing this will enable you to contextualize medical terms.
It can also help you forge a deeper understanding between the language and the actual disease or process. For example, you can start with the skeletal system. You can use concept mapping to create your notes for medical terminologies.
Review your notes with friends or classmates. Once you've mastered that, you can move on to other parts of the body. The best part about this is that you can associate terms from the previous system with the next.
Medical terminologies often follow the same structure. Different suffixes and prefixes have the same meaning. This can make it easier to learn new terms when moving on to a different part of the body.
5. Study With Friends
Study groups might help if you struggle with holding yourself accountable. They can also be more fun and engaging when you do it with people you love.
People are prone to procrastinating when they work alone. With friends, you can inspire each other and help when a subject is unclear.
One great advantage of group studies is that they can help you get a well-rounded insight into a particular topic. If you study alone and struggle with a certain term, there will be no one around to help. Everyone has different learning strategies, and your friend might be able to introduce a new way of learning.
One way to study medical terminologies with friends is by using flash cards. Write the medical term on one side and its definition on the other. You can turn this into a game with your friends, and the person with the least points will have to treat everyone else.
Here is another word-guessing game that you can try with friends.
Start by setting the parameters for the game. For example, the word must be related to the cardiovascular system.
The person who is "it" must sit in a chair facing the others. One person must assign a word and write it on a flashcard. Place the flashcard on the player's forehead.
The "it" player must guess the word by asking the other players. Other players may only answer yes or no.
For example, is it a disease? Is it related to the heart? Is it inflammation?
The "it" player must use the other players' answers to guess to correct medical terminology.
6. Build Your Medical Vocabulary
Have you ever encountered a word in medical textbooks and wondered, "how did they come up with that?"
Many medical terms sound the same, but there's a good reason. Most terminologies come from Greek and Latin words and use the same roots, prefixes, and suffixes. This is a great strategy for students who find it difficult to memorize individual words.
First, it's essential to understand how medical terms are structured. A medical term is often a combination of a prefix, a root word, and a suffix. Understanding the meaning of common medical prefixes and suffixes will make it easier to discern medical terms.
Here are some examples of medical prefixes.
- hypo - below normal
- super-, hyper - above normal
- eu - normal
- a-, de - without
- dys - abnormal
- iso - the same or equal
Now, here are some medical suffixes.
- -algia - pain
- -itis - inflammation
- -oma - mass, tumor, growth
- -pathy - disease
- -lenia - deficiency
Many medical root words are also derived from Greek and Latin terms. So, instead of memorizing each medical term, you can memorize the word components. Once you have a good understanding of that, you can learn medical terminologies with ease.
7. Connect New Terms to Common Words
This strategy goes hand-in-hand with learning medical word stems. You may already know the term "hypertension" before you even entered medical school. This can help as a frame of reference when encountering new and unfamiliar terms.
Hypertension means excess blood pressure. Hyper means excess in the medical world. If you encounter a word like "hyperthyroidism," you can work backward and understand that it is an excess of something.
You may not be able to discern the meaning of the word right away, but it can help shorten the learning process. This is an excellent way to learn medical terminologies because you're basing them on something you already know.
8. Supplement Your Knowledge With Online Learning
Learning medical terminology is an essential part of the curriculum. However, if you feel your lessons are lacking, you may benefit from a medical terminology course. There are thousands of medical terms out there, and you can't expect to master them in only a few days.
Aside from procedures, treatments, conditions, and diseases, you also have to memorize drugs and medical equipment. If you only have one class that teaches medical terms, it can be difficult to catch up.
Some words with Greek and Latin roots are simple and easy to remember. However, integument, which in the medical field refers to skin, can be more challenging to memorize. Some medical terminologies have multiple terms and consist of words derived from French.
Taking a medical terminology course can help you navigate these terms and definitions. This ensures you don't fall behind in your classes. Some lectures offer memory techniques to help you improve your recall skills.
9. Get Our Medical Terminology Workbook
Put your knowledge and skills to the test with our medical terminology guide and workbook. Self-testing is a way to practice recalling information. This strategy is much more effective than relying on textbook studying alone.
Self-testing can be empowering because you get to see the tangible effects of all your hard work. You'll even be able to identify problem areas or topics that need more attention.
Medical Creations offers a study guide and workbook for medical terminology. This is a great tool to have if you're in the medical field and preparing for the MCAT or NCLEX.
We also have a separate workbook to help you test your fluency in medical terminology. Our workbooks consist of multiple choice, fill-in-the-blanks, and matching columns.
10. Set Goals and Stay Consistent
Mastering medical terminology is something that takes time, so don't rush yourself. Don't cram thousands of words into a single day. Instead, set goals and stay consistent with your study plan.
For example, you can set aside a day to memorize medical terminology related to the skeletal system. You can also focus on reviewing the definitions of medical prefixes and suffixes. Remember to take breaks to prevent burnout and reward yourself for your hard work.
Best Strategies to Memorize Medical Terminology
Memorizing medical terminology does not have to be as frustrating as it is for most students. Studying with friends and self-testing are only a few ways to enhance your knowledge and improve your recall skills. Of course, it doesn't hurt to have some extra help.
Medical Creations offers nursing resources and more to help you on your journey to becoming a medical professional. Aside from nursing guides, we also have practice suture kits. Contact us today to learn more.