Decoding Medical Jargon: 15 Tips

15 Language Tips: Understanding Things Doctors Say – Making Medical Jargon Accessible

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Derek Cupp

By Derek Cupp

Ever felt like you’re trying to decipher a foreign language when talking to your doctor? You’re not alone. Medical jargon can often sound like an entirely different dialect, leaving us puzzled and anxious.

That’s why I’ve put together these 15 handy tips for understanding things doctors say. By demystifying those big words and complex phrases, we’ll empower ourselves to have more productive conversations with our healthcare providers.

So, let’s dive right in. With a little patience and persistence, we’ll all be speaking ‘doctor’ before we know it! Here are the 15 language tips that can help bridge the gap between us and our doctors.

Decoding Doctor’s Lingo: A Starter Guide

I’ve often found myself sitting in a doctor’s office, trying to make sense of the medical jargon tossed my way. If you’ve had similar experiences, this guide is for you. I’ll break down some common phrases and terms doctors use so that they’re easier to understand.

First, let’s talk about “stat”. You might’ve heard it on medical TV shows. It comes from the Latin word statim, meaning ‘immediately.’ So when your doctor says “We need to do this stat,” he means there’s urgency involved.

Another term that often causes confusion is “prn.” This one’s short for the Latin phrase pro re nata and translates to ‘as needed.’ For instance, if your prescription reads “Take one pill prn,” it implies you should take the medication only when necessary.

A phrase I’d like to clarify next is “NPO.” Derived from Latin again – nil per os – it stands for ‘nothing by mouth.’ If a doctor tells you to be NPO after midnight before an operation, it means no eating or drinking after that time.

Here are these examples in a simpler table format:

Medical Term





As Needed


Nothing By Mouth

Now let’s shift focus onto something more clinical – CBC, which stands for Complete Blood Count. This test measures different components of your blood and can help diagnose various conditions.

Lastly, we have SOB, an abbreviation not as harsh as it sounds! It stands for Shortness Of Breath — a symptom reported by patients with respiratory issues.

Understanding these terms can make communication with your healthcare provider smoother and less stressful. Remember, if you don’t understand something, don’t hesitate to ask them what they mean – after all, knowledge is power!

Making Sense of Medical Jargon: 15 Key Terms

Diving headfirst into the sea of medical jargon can be daunting. But don’t worry, I’ve got your back. Let’s start decoding those tricky terms and phrases doctors often use.

First off, BP doesn’t always mean British Petroleum in a hospital setting; it stands for Blood Pressure. Understanding this term is crucial as it’s frequently mentioned in any health-related conversation.

Next on our list is BMI, or Body Mass Index. This figure helps you know if you’re underweight, overweight or just right according to your height and weight ratio. It’s important to note that while useful, BMI isn’t the only measure of body health.

If you’ve ever wondered what “benign” means when it comes after a diagnosis, here’s your answer: it refers to a condition that isn’t harmful in effect.

On the other hand, “malignant” denotes something dangerous and harmful – usually associated with cancer.

The next term might sound familiar – diabetes. It’s a disease where sugar levels rise higher than normal due to the body not being able to make or use insulin properly.

Ever come across CBC on your lab reports? That’s Complete Blood Count – a test checking for different types of cells in your blood like red blood cells (RBC), white blood cells (WBC)and platelets.

Let me also demystify ECG/EKG – an Electrocardiogram measures your heart’s electrical activity helping detect any irregularities.

Don’t confuse ECG with EEG – an Electroencephalogram which tracks brain waves.

Two more terms related to pregnancy are antenatal (before birth) and postnatal (after birth).

Finally let’s talk about some acronyms:

  • COPD: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

  • CAD: Coronary Artery Disease

  • GERD: GastroEsophageal Reflux Disease

  • UTI: Urinary Tract Infection

  • HIV/AIDS : Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome

These are just scratching the surface but knowing these terms will certainly help you navigate health-related conversations better!

Conclusion: Enhancing Communication with Your Doctor

I’ve spent a good chunk of time providing tips on understanding doctor lingo. But let’s not forget, the crux of this endeavor is to bridge the communication gap between you and your healthcare provider. It’s about fostering an environment where both parties understand each other clearly.

The ultimate goal isn’t just to decipher medical jargon. Instead, it’s about feeling comfortable in those conversations with your doctor. It’s about being able to ask questions confidently and understanding the answers provided thoroughly.

Your health matters tremendously and so does its management. That’s why I believe it’s important for you to comprehend what your doctor says without any ambiguity.

Here are some quick takeaways:

  • Before visiting your doctor, prepare a list of queries or concerns.

  • Don’t shy away from asking questions or seeking clarity.

  • If possible, bring along a family member or friend who can also listen and help remember critical information.

Remember my friends; effective communication is key when it comes to managing your health effectively. And understanding what your doctor says? Well, that’s half the battle won right there! So let these language tips guide you towards more fruitful discussions with your healthcare provider.

In summary, don’t be daunted by medical terminology anymore. Use these handy tips as a stepping stone towards better comprehension and improved conversation during your next appointment!

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