Pick the Right Medical Terminology Course in 2021

Pick the Right Medical Terminology Course in 2021

The English language contains more than a million words that are used in common speech, but the medical world has over five million. While it is impossible to know them all, having an idea of how medical terms are constructed, and an understanding of what the most common terms are, can be an invaluable tool for your career.

Who Should Take a Medical Terminology Course?

Anyone who has contact with the health system should understand basic medical terminology. While the most common people to seek out medical terminology students are nursing and medical students, as well as international practitioners of medicine, these are not the only people who should be familiar with the jargon associated with health.

Software developers in the health field, receptionists interested in the medical field, and insurance investigators should all have an introductory understanding of the terms and abbreviations that they will come across.

What Makes a Good Medical Terminology Course

The best medical terminology courses take into account the needs of the student, the sort of medical environment they are going to be engaged in, and the resources available to students. They have engaging teachers and useful information, present clear expectations, and are worth reviewing in the future.

Medical Terminology Courses Should Value the Right Expertise

Knowing the correct medical terminology can sometimes be a matter of life and death – even when you are not a nurse or doctor. Keeping accurate records and communicating precisely can save lives.

For this reason alone you must be able to trust your teacher implicitly. This means listening to health professionals. If you can, finding courses that are by health professionals with a history teaching can ensure you are given the best chance.

Terminology Courses Should Be Designed With a Purpose in Mind

The context of a course is very important. Nurses need to know different words to pharmacists, and medical students have a different vocabulary to software developers. Many people, prior to taking a course in medical terminology, are unaware that even your location of work matters.

Because we sometimes want to learn medical terminology for a specific purpose, like administration, or to read research papers, it is worth looking at courses that offer more than an expanded vocabulary. Many of the courses we have found offer invaluable skills and knowledge that extend beyond understanding the difference between “biography” and “biology”.

Countries that use the English medical lexicon use different terms than those who use the American medical lexicon. A good example of this is the hormone epinephrine, which is also known as adrenaline. It is the same hormone, but with quite different names. Because of this, learning from someone who has a different background to that in which you will work may lead to miscommunication. All courses we recommend are suitable for the United States healthcare system, but may not be suitable for other countries.

The courses we have chosen include a range of prices to suit any budget, and let you know what you get for that money, so we’re sure the perfect option for you is on our list.

Top 10 Best Medical Terminology Courses 2021


1. Clinical Terminology for International and U.S. Students

  • 34+ hrs Free ($ for certificate) Our rating  
  • Course Highlights
  • Taught By: Valerie Swigart, Ph.D. R.N., Michael Gold, Ph.D.
  • Suitable For: Those entering the US hospital system, especially from overseas
  • Includes: Dozens of readings, quizzes every week, certificate of completion

Why we like it

This is a university-level unit that includes real-world examples, preparing you for the US Hospital system.

The Content

The University of Pittsburgh has offered this highly practical online course that takes you through the common terms and abbreviations one would see or hear on the wards of a hospital. With a focus on clinical settings, it doesn’t go into any linguistics or etymology. Instead, it offers real-world examples, including videos of “patients” and examples of charts you may come across as a nurse, doctor, or medical student.

The course is broken up over six weeks, though a studious person may be able to complete it in half that time. Each “week” includes a quiz to help self-assessment and up to a dozen written resources to complement the videos provided.

The Teachers

Valerie Swigart is the Associate Professor of Nursing at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing. She has been in academia for thirty years, many of them teaching about bioethics, medical communication, and technological interfaces for medical ethics.

Michael Gold is Associate Professor Emeritus at the school Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, and specializes in providing high-quality online education to international students hoping to work in the US. The course benefits from his understanding that the education of those outside the US health system often requires extra steps.

Verdict

While this university-level course was specifically created for people coming from overseas to work in the US medical system, we believe it benefits all students of medical terminology. This course is one of the few that has true clinical benefits, and which you will return to time and again. We especially appreciate the added work given on abbreviations found in charts, and understanding the basics of diagnostic procedures.

Unfortunately, some students have struggled with the online quizzes, with a few experiencing audio issues that held back their ability to complete them as well as they would like. However, this seems to be an uncommon occurrence.

For a “hands-on” look at clinical terminology in the US Health system,“Clinical Terminology for International and U.S. Students” is a great choice.

Pros

  • University unit is available to all
  • Includes lessons on abbreviations
  • Real-world clinical examples
  • Lots of opportunities for self-assessment
  • Free when not wanting certification

Cons

  • Some technical issues with one or two quizzes
  • A long course, designed for six weeks of lessons


2. Medical Terminology 101

  • 2.5+ hrs $19.99 Our rating  
  • Course Highlights
  • Taught By: Emma Nichols, PhD
  • Suitable For: Those interested in basic linguistics of medical terminology
  • Includes: 14 downloadable resources, certificate of completion

Why we like it

Simple, inexpensive, and broken down into bite-sized chunks, this course is easy enough for anyone.

The Content

This course has a strong focus on how medical terms come to be. Not the history as much as how suffixes and prefixes can help us make educated “guesses” about words we don’t know, and how we can find common threads based on body systems.

The course is primarily videos and also includes a short quiz at the end of each video to help cement that understanding. The course also covers how the pronunciation of medical terminology can sometimes be tricky, as words spelled similarly sound differently.

The Teachers

Emma Nichols is the creator of Nascent Medical, a company that specializes in creating high-quality medical writing and teaching others to do so. She has a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology but found the communication side far more interesting than the research. This expertise comes through with her clear presentation and willingness to repeat concepts to keep students comfortable.

Verdict

While this course may be too simple for some learners, for a person who wants to understand how “cardiology” is related to “hematology” and “echocardiogram”, this is the course to take. While the video lengths are short, the associate material is thorough.

With a low price point and high quality of communication, this simple course in how medical terms work is well worth exploring.

Pros

  • Well structured for easy reviewing
  • Engaging, intelligent teacher
  • Inexpensive

Cons

  • Only offers the most basic information


3. Learn to Speak “Medicine” and Start Your Healthcare Career

  • 4+ hrs. $19.99 Our rating  
  • Course Highlights
  • Taught By: John Pamperin
  • Suitable For: People interested in healthcare, students needing help
  • Includes: Extra downloadable resource, certificate of completion

Why we like it

While focusing only on terminology, it is taught by showing how the words are used in clinical situations.

The Content

Like many of the medical terminology courses you will find, this starts by offering an overview of how medical terms can be broken down from their ancient roots, and how you can use this understanding to even make educational guesses.

However, unlike some of the other courses, this one takes the next steps of explaining the diseases, procedures and anatomy that rely on such medical terminology. Learning through “immersion”, as the course introduction puts it, means learning the terms in the same context you would in the real world. This includes learning to read from examples of prescriptions and medical reports.

The Teachers

John Pamperin is a nurse practitioner who has been working in the field for over twenty years. While currently working in cardiology, he has had a career that has covered many areas of medicine, in both hospitals and clinics.

Pamperin, surprisingly, doesn’t have a background in medical education. Still, his clear, engaging voice and willingness to offer far more than just reading from PowerPoint slides means he is one of the standout teachers among those offering medical terminology courses.

Verdict

For an introduction to medical terminology, especially for anyone with little knowledge of health education in general, this is one of the best courses you can find. The content never gets too complex, but it offers more than rote learning of terms; the course presents an introduction to terminology in practice.

The course does have its faults. There are some unfortunate moments of misspellings (or non-medical terms) and drops in the quality of images presented. However, these appear to stem from a lack of attention to detail rather than a poor understanding of the material.

While not perfect, this low-budget course offers everything you would hope for in an introduction to medical terminology, as well as a basic introduction to medicine in general. We would highly recommend it for high school students, those interested in a healthcare profession, or students in health sciences who need a little extra help.

Pros

  • A simple, effective introduction to terminology
  • Engaging teacher presentation
  • Puts the terms into real-world contexts
  • Low cost

Cons

  • Doesn’t go into much detail
  • Some minor “attention to detail” issues with slides and notes


4. Foundational Skills for Communicating About Health

  • 14+ hrs Free (Certificate Extra) Our rating  
  • Course Highlights
  • Taught By: Brian Zikmund-Fisher, University of Michigan
  • Suitable For: Clinicians, media, advocates in health fields
  • Includes: Over a dozen extra readings and quizzes, certificate of completion

Why we like it

A course about bridging the gap between jargon and real communication, this one is for the professionals who already know the big words.

The Content

A medical terminology course with a twist, this set of classes from Michigan University is designed to help provide the terminology and skills needed to take quite complex ideas and communicate them to the general public. This means finding terminology that is accessible rather than esoteric.

Designed to be taken over five weeks, this course contains a lot of content and will require some real work to get the most out of. At the end of the unit, students are expected to be able to create a final written assignment summarizing a scientific article for a different audience. Thanks to how well it is taught, most students find this far easier than it sounds before taking the course.

The Teachers

Dr. Brian J. Zikmund-Fisher is an Associate Professor at the University of Michigan and teaches graduate courses in health risk communication on campus. This is one of the few times he has taught a more introductory course in health communication, and he has done a great job of proving what he teaches, by offering knowledge and skills that are available without any prior requirements of knowledge. Zikmund-Fisher provides a very professional set of classes, without the course ever feeling intimidating.

Verdict

For the healthcare professional, often what is needed is to learn how not to use terminology rather than to learn more of it. That requires its own language, and skills to translate the complex medical jargon into something that bridges the gap between medical research and patient understanding. This course does a very fine job in covering those skills, without allowing itself to ever come across as patronizing or inaccessible.

For the clinicians and researchers looking to offer more assistance to media and tech partners in the healthcare field, this set of classes on how terminology can help and hinder will provide the skills necessary to succeed where many don’t.

Pros

  • Great at teaching presentation skills
  • Also goes into details outside of terminology
  • Improves your understanding of medical communication issues

Cons

  • More suited to professionals who already know the terminology


5. How to Read and Interpret a Scientific Paper

  • 1+ hrs $19.99 Our rating  
  • Course Highlights
  • Taught By: Emma Nichols, PhD
  • Suitable For: Professionals, students, and those who like to read medical journals in their free time
  • Includes: One article, two downloadable resources, five quizzes, certificate of completion

Why we like it

These days, everyone needs to know how to read medical research papers. Now, everyone can, learning all the difficult terms along the way.

The Content

This course focuses on one very particular area of the health system, and that is research papers. The course covers everything from how articles are structured, to the common terms used when discussing design methods and statistical analysis.

While the course could be completed over only an hour, many of the videos are going to be watched more than once to be fully appreciated, and the break-up into micro-videos makes revision quite simple, even when you are in the middle of reading a paper in the future.

The Teachers

Emma is also the teacher of “Medical Terminology 101” and here she presents a course that is far more focussed. In some ways she is even more in her element during this course, clearly explaining sometimes-difficult terms and statistical concepts in a language that is truly accessible to anyone.

Emma is a natural lecturer, preferring to expand on ideas in a presentation, rather than reading from a script or simply offering a verbal version of what we read on screen. This means listening to the video is often far more important than viewing it but it also means that liking her style becomes a bigger factor in liking the course.

Verdict

This is a great course. Precise, intelligent, accessible. As it becomes more difficult to trust popular media to report accurately on scientific research, it becomes more important to be able to read and interpret medical papers ourselves. While this course is designed with health students in mind, the accessible language and well-considered structure make it something anyone can use and understand.

This isn’t a course about expanding vocabulary as much as learning a valuable skill. If you want to be able to pick up the New England Journal of Medicine and have a chance to know what the articles are about, this course can give you what you are looking for.

Pros

  • Goes into the terminology and structure of medical papers
  • Addresses often-neglected areas of statistics terminology
  • Accessible to anyone interested in reading research, not just students

Cons

  • Focus on medical literature rather than clinical settings


6. Healthcare Data Literacy

  • 13+ hrs. Free (pay for certificate) Our rating  
  • Course Highlights
  • Taught By: Brian Paciotti, University of California
  • Suitable For: Tech and Data people interested in the healthcare sector
  • Includes: Two extra readings, two quizzes, certificate of completion

Why we like it

Medical Data Technologies is a growing field, and people who can understand the language that bridges Medicine and IT can quickly advance in their careers.

The Content

This intermediate-level course is designed for those who want to be able to interpret and communicate health-related communication. This means examining far more than medical terminology.

Designed to be taken over four weeks, the course covers topics like using ICD codes, how administrative data is analyzed, and how to do your own data mapping. This course often provides far more than what a layperson is interested in but can be the perfect introduction to health analytics for data professionals who are looking for a change in industries.

The Teachers

Brian Paciotti is a volunteer clinical faculty member for the UC Davis Department of Public Health while also working for the Research IT department. Previously, he has worked for the Director’s Office at the California Department of Health Care Services and is currently writing a book to help everyday people understand health analytics.

Brian has an accessible style of communication, often talking about quite technical concepts using language that means you don’t need prior training to keep up. While he isn’t very active in the feedback side of things, he does provide a framework to help us self-assess where we may be struggling in our understanding of health data.

Verdict

This course is very well structured, contains a heap of information in accessibility-friendly videos, and is presented with as much professionalism as an on-campus course.

While this course has a much heavier workload than others on our list, the skills and knowledge learned here are invaluable. If you are a tech professional looking into the healthcare sector, this is a course you should take. It is a bonus that the course itself is free, with payment only required if you would like a certificate. That said, the certificate, recognized as a unit at the University of California, is one well worth mentioning on a resume.

A tough course to complete, and offering far more than terminology, “Health Data Literacy” is as good as any university course anywhere else.

Pros

  • Focussed course for health data professionals
  • Covers unique topics like ICD coding
  • Recognized unit by the University of California

Cons

  • Large workload to handle
  • Higher expectations may make it intimidating for beginners


7. Medical Terminology With DoaneX

  • 40-80hrs Free (Certificate Extra) Our rating  
  • Course Highlights
  • Taught By: Amanda McKinney, MD, FACLM
  • Suitable For: Pre-Med students and those interested
  • Includes: Optional Certificate

Why we like it

A great university unit on how medical terms have a specific system of creation, and how we can use that to expand our vocabulary.

The Content

This course provides an undergraduate level of study in how medical terminology works, using root words, word parts, and abbreviations. Broken up over eight weeks of study, this is a course that will take a lot of time but will provide a complete overview of the common terminology medical students face.

Unlike many courses, anatomy is not the only topic talked about in DoaneX’s unit. Physiology, Pathology and Diagnostics are all topics covered, as the teacher explains how each has developed its unique terminology.

The Teachers

Amanda McKinney is the Director of Doane University's Institute for Human and Planetary Health and a member of the Board of Directors of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. Previously an Obstetrician and Gynecologist, McKinney has a passion for natural medicine and teaching about plant-based health-care.

Verdict

This course is free to audit, with payment only required if you decide you would like to use what you have learned for credit in other courses or wish to have the certificate of completion. For this reason alone it is worth looking into.

The course makes a real effort to make no prerequisite learning required and we appreciate that the layperson who is willing to put in the work can do just as well as the pre-med student who already has some units under their belt.

There is no risk in trying this course, even if you decide you cannot afford the time and resources required to fully appreciate it.

Pros

  • Covers terms in anatomy, pathology, and even diagnostics
  • Taught by an experienced medical doctor
  • Designed with beginners in mind
  • Free if without the certificate
  • Can be used as university credit

Cons

  • May be considered too easy for some
  • Requires a lot of time and resources to fully complete


8. Medical Terminology Foundations

  • 2+ hrs $19.99 Our rating  
  • Course Highlights
  • Taught By: Colin Tempelis, DPT
  • Suitable For: People wanting a new way to brush up on knowledge during their break
  • Includes: 46 downloadable resources, certificate of completion

Why we like it

Clear guidance through the most common terms, presented clearly in an expensive set of tutorials. Great for short revision sessions when needed.

The Content

Like many of the courses out there, this short set of videos breaks down the body systems; primarily anatomy but also some physiology and pathology. Each system has a devoted short video and set of downloadable resources to help you learn the terms within.

The Teachers

Colin Tempelis is a physical therapist with a doctorate in physical therapy and a degree in science. He has a strong voice that gives a sense of confidence in what he is teaching.

Tempelis doesn’t attempt to offer anything too flashy or hard-to-follow and is methodical in the way he approaches the course.

Verdict

This course is by no means complex, and in some ways offers little more than any medical dictionary might. However, the short videos mean it is easy to refresh your memory during a smoke break, or on the train. The course slides are uncluttered and Tempelis doesn’t rush us with our learning.

While short, it is also cheap. Because you have lifetime access to all the resources and videos, we highly recommend it as a wonderful choice for people wanting to brush up on knowledge or have a quick review.

Pros

  • Engaging and enthusiastic teacher
  • Clear explanations of topics
  • Inexpensive

Cons

  • Covers little more than a short visual medical dictionary in content
  • Only a small amount of content


9. Basics of Medical Terminology

  • 3.5+ hrs $124.99 Our rating  
  • Course Highlights
  • Level of Study: Beginner
  • Taught By: Lupe Jurado, CPC CPMA
  • Suitable For: People interested in medical terminology
  • Includes: 37 downloadable resources, certificate of completion

Why we like it

A look at clinical terminology from the perspective of someone who has decades of experience with the paperwork.

The Content

After starting with the basics of how most medical terms are constructed, this course walks you through all the primary body systems. Starting with the digestive system and continuing all the way into psychiatry, it examines the terms you are most likely to come across as a lay reader, or as someone adjacent to health professionals.

At the end of each section, there is a small, self-guided quiz to help you ensure that the knowledge is sticking, and the course comes with a large amount of secondary content to download and use.

The Teachers

Lupe Jerado has twenty-five years of experience as a medical receptionist, biller, and fraud investigator. With an easy-going voice (despite the audio quality of her microphone), and an understanding of how to communicate ideas simply, she makes a great teacher for those who are specifically studying or working in medical administration.

Verdict

While the content of this course is A-plus material, and the teacher obviously knows what she is talking about, it suffers greatly in its presentation. The audio quality is quite poor, so if you rely more on listening to videos than reading and watching, this probably isn’t the course for you.

That said, the structure of the course is perfect, the teacher experienced, and the supplementary material is invaluable. As long as you don’t plan on taking this course by simply listening to the videos, “Basics of Medical Terminology” is worth the money.

Pros

  • Taught by someone experienced in medical paperwork
  • Covers often-neglected topics like psychiatry
  • Some material covers abbreviations and codes

Cons

  • Audio quality issues
  • The teacher doesn’t offer more than what the slides say


10. Medical Terminology

  • 12+ hrs $49.99 Our rating  
  • Course Highlights
  • Taught By: Dr. Paul Stewart
  • Suitable For: pre-med and nursing students
  • Includes: 26 downloadable resources, certificate of completion

Why we like it

A well-rounded examination of the terms out there, this self-paced course contains a lot of extra material to help revise.

The Content

This course is an introduction to medical terms, especially in how prefixes and suffixes combine to form the vocabulary of all body systems. A self-paced course, it is filled with materials for both learning and revision; videos and written works complement each other to provide a large dictionary of terms.

The course is well-structured, breaking down each body system and looking at them separately. The videos are broken into 15-30 minute sessions and make great lessons for each day.

The Teachers

Dr. Stewart is a consultant in psychology, nursing, and public health. Unfortunately, it is difficult to find much information about him online. What can be gleaned from the course, however, is that Stewart has a clear understanding of how medical terms are created, and is clear in his presentation.

Verdict

For someone just learning about medical terms, this can be a useful place to start. It takes its time with each term and gives a clear pronunciation for it. It can get a bit dry and repetitive at times, and Dr. Stewart rarely gives further information but you get a holistic approach to medical terminology.

While moderately priced, there is a lot of material to unpack and this is a course that you will possibly use for revision on a semi-regular basis.

Pros

  • A large vocabulary is covered
  • Covers each term with clear pronunciation and definitions
  • Broken into easy-to-digest lessons

Cons

  • A little dry and repetitive
  • Unclear information about the teacher
  • Doesn’t cover extra topics


Medical Terminology Course FAQ

When people are looking at online medical terminology courses, they often have other questions in their minds. We’ve scoured the internet, and even asked some health professionals their opinions, to ensure you have the best answers, right here, at your fingertips.

While a medical dictionary is not necessary for most of the courses we have listed above, one is always worth having anyway.

There is not one “Gold Standard” when it comes to medical dictionaries. For the American Healthcare system, however, we recommend Merriam-Webster’s Medical Dictionary or Stedman’s Medical Dictionary.

As these can be quite expensive, you may consider other, free options, including mobile applications and websites. However, these are rarely comprehensive, and may not be enough for the working professional.

Having a good medical dictionary on your smartphone can help complement what you are learning online and can be used as an emergency backup in the field. Stedman’s dictionary is also available on Apple and Android devices.

ICD (or International Classification of Diseases) is a global standard for clinical record keeping. Because it is a global standard, it works no matter what the language of the patient and medical professional, and can be extremely helpful when performing statistical research of diseases. These codes also provide a short-hand to ensure patients receive proper treatment and to track the costs of medical treatment.

ICD-10 codes are currently used by the most common healthcare insurance providers in America, though they are slowly rolling out ICD-11. There is very little difference between these two classifications, with ICD-11 adding, rather than changing, codes that previously were not considered.

For learning medical codes, you will want to purchase the CPT 2021 Professional Edition.



How to Learn Medical Terminology in 2021

open laptop and calculator in front of doctor reading book

Hemostasis. Orthopedics. Horripilation.

Medicine is full of literally thousands of weird and wonderful terms to describe the anatomy, body systems, diseases, and processes. Just as it is difficult to learn a language by simply buying a dictionary, a medical dictionary is rarely enough to wrap our heads around medical terminology. Fortunately, there are some great courses out there, and a bunch of other amazing resources we can call upon.

First, however, we can get a head start by understanding how such words are formed, and what we are going to need before taking an online medical terminology course.

Horripilation and Why We Might Be Scared of It

Scientific terms like those used in medicine are often created in the sort of scientific way that you can only expect from the lab geeks that needed them. Most are simply a combination of two Greek or Latin words, using parts we might already recognize in normal English.

Take “Horripilation”. If you were to assume that it has something to do with “Horror”, you would be right. “Horrere” means “to stand on end” in Latin, and when we are scared, our hairs stand on end. “Horripilation” is the medical term for “goosebumps.”

When you know the common Greek and Latin prefixes, medicine begins to make sense. If “Osteo” has to do with bones, then “osteoporosis” and “osteopathy” do too. The same works at the other end, with suffixes, as well. “-ology” means “the study of” while “-graphy” means “writing of”. So “cardiology” is the science of the heart (cardi), while “echocardiography” (or ECG) is the recording of heartbeats as waveforms, which used to be printed out on a roll of paper with a special machine.

Medical terminology courses can help us learn the most common prefixes and suffixes, those rare cases where something may be different than you expect, and how we can easily learn the patterns of word creation.

The Importance of Taking a Medical Terminology Course From the United States

In Medicine, terms may be different if your school or hospital uses a British system rather than an American one. While some terms can be easily translated (like “Esophagus” becoming “Oesophagus” in England), others are far more difficult. eg/ The medicine “Epinephrine” is often referred to by British doctors as “Adrenaline”.

Final Thoughts

Learning the thousands of medical terms needed to work effectively in the health field no longer needs to be the headache it once was. By choosing the correct online medical terminology course and availing yourself of the latest in dictionaries, you can be prepared to take the next steps in your knowledge and skills.