You're Learning Medical Terminology the Wrong Way

If you've spent any amount of time on tl;dr pharmacy, you'll notice that our material doesn't read like most other sources of pharmacy education out there. In fact, it is almost nothing like it. This is an intentional move on our part.

Traditional thinking says that “Students have to learn the medical terms anyway. It’s better to just immerse them in it so they learn them more quickly and completely!” 

I can see how that might work if you're spending a semester abroad in France. But I'm not so sold on how effective it is for learning medical terminology.

Medical terminology is, in a sense, a foreign language--but more accurately it's a collection of vocabulary words. You have to identify 'x' body part and know that it's called 'y' in medical terminology. There's a similar process for identifying pathologies and disease states. And it's important that you know these vocabulary words because your instructions on patient management are also in medical terminology.

However, learning medical terminology while also trying to learn how to manage a sick patient is like learning how to fly a plane with your teacher giving you instructions in latin.

As it turns out, most medical terminology is based in latin. When you start pharmacy school, you immerse yourself into some pretty complex topics. And you probably don't have much experience with any of them. Pathophysiology, pharmacology, kinetics, therapeutics, get the idea.

You’re told that if you understand the pathophysiology and the root concepts, that memorization becomes easy. And this is true. The problem is that you're learning these complex concepts in an unfamiliar language. 

So I go for more of a Rosetta Stone approach. My "big studying secret" (if you can even call it that) during pharmacy school was that I translated all of my notes into laymen terms. This actually serves two important functions. First, I was forced to actually think about what I was writing instead of just blindly copying something from a text book or a professor's slides. Second, I was developing a way to educate patients (and eventually students) because I could explain things using words they understood. Nothing will make a patient's eyes glaze over faster than you going on about their "pleural effusion."  

It's a similar approach to learning certain key words when taking a class like Medical Spanish. You learn the Spanish word for various body parts, pain, insurance, and so on. You have an easier time remembering these isolated terms because you have a fundamental understanding of the concept.  You already understand what the concept of pain means, dolor is just how it’s said in Spanish.

Start with the concept. Learn it in a language that you’re familiar with. Afterwards, translating it to medical terminology is easy. 

PS: Are you interested in residency? Check out our new guide, Mastering the Match: How to Secure a Pharmacy Residency!

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