Understanding the clinical terms and abbreviations commonly used during verbal or written communication in U.S. hospitals is challenging. This course is designed for U.S. health care profession students and for international students and practitioners who want to become more familiar with the language of the U.S. clinical setting. Others, such as caregivers and medical interpreters, who wish to develop a better understanding of terms and abbreviations used by health care providers will find this course helpful. The course provides visual and auditory learning experiences to enhance the understanding of terms and abbreviations commonly encountered on a general U.S. hospital unit. All content including quizzes are available at no cost to the learner. If you need a certificate, you can apply for financial aid or pay the fee. To find out more, click Learn more and apply next to the information about Financial Aid. (Use a computer, not a mobile device, for this step.)
- Week 1 - Introduction to Clinical Terms and Abbreviations
In the week 1 video lecture, Dr. Swigart introduces the course and strategies for understanding the structure of clinical abbreviations and complex terms. In week 1 readings, we focus on learning abbreviations related to vital signs. Understanding the structur...
- Week 2 - Decoding Complex Medical Terms
In week 2, we expand our focus to learn about abbreviations and terms used in the hospital environment. You will tour a modern U.S. clinical unit and visit the bedside of three patients. These vicarious bedside experiences will help you to imagine the context...
- Week 3 - Advanced Decoding Strategies for Clinical Terms
This week, Dr. Swigart shares more strategies toward discovering the meaning of complex medical/scientific words. It focuses on three essential clinical topics: abbreviations used in emergency situations, the timing and route of medications, and the administra...
- Week 4 - Diseases of the Bodily Systems
This week turns the focus to the acronyms commonly substituted for the name of diseases and conditions of the bodily systems. To help you relate the disease and its acronym, we have organized the diseases according to systems of the body. First letters of word...
- Week 5 - Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures
This week, the lecture focuses on the important aspects of patient safety when using abbreviations. The readings focus on laboratory tests and diagnostic procedures. A patient-case approach is used to help you make associations between diseases and the tests o...
- Week 6 - Practice Understanding Clinical Abbreviations and Complex Terms in Clinical Situations
As you worked through Week 1-5 sessions you have learned about abbreviations and terms used every day in clinical practice. Now you are ready to use your new knowledge and test your comprehension skills. This week you see and hear clinical conversation in real...
Valerie Swigart, Ph.D. R.N.
Professor of Nursing
School of Nursing
Michael Gold, Ph.D.
Associate Professor Emeritus
Graduate School of Public and International Affairs