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Nursing Terminology Study Guide

In all nursing occupations the understanding and use of medical terminology is required. To a person that does not work in the health care field it may seem like a foreign language but for those that hold nurse jobs it’s a normal way of life. This vocabulary was put together as a means to accurately describe everything dealing with the human body. In order to understand this medical vocabulary a person needs to understand the basics of how to decode a medical term in order to understand its meaning. Once a person gains a basic understanding and practices breaking the terms down they will become a complete master at the process.

Word Parts

Most medical terminology comes from four different sources: Latin and Greek words, acronyms, eponyms, and modern language. These words are also constructed typically by using four different word parts: prefixes, suffixes, root words, and combining vowels. Nursing education can provide a more in-depth look at these word parts as well as everything else a nurse will need to know. Here a basic study guide is provided to help introduce those considering entering into any nursing schools in order to start a nursing career.


When a person looks at a long word they do not understand it can confuse them. They may not realize by knowing the meaning of certain terms it is rather easy to break the word down in order to understand the word as a whole. The suffix is the ending of the word. When breaking a medical term down a person should start from the end of the word. Take the word “hematology” for instance. The ending of the word is –logy. In medical terminology –logy means “the study of.” From that, it is now known that hematology is the study of something.


The prefix is the beginning of the word. This is the next word part a person should read. In the word “hematology,” the beginning of the word is “hemat-.” In medical terminology hemat- means “blood.” As it can be seen the word hematology means the study of blood. It seems fairly easy doesn’t it? That’s because it is. A person may think that is it but what about the “o” in the center of the suffix and prefix? That is the combining vowel.

Combining Vowel

The combining vowel in a medical term has no real meaning alone but it is a very important factor in the medical term as a whole. It connects two medical terms that would not sound right if the combining vowel was not there. Online nursing programs will not only provide students this basic understanding of medical terminology but they will also provide students with the knowledge of other aspects to medical terminology such as those terms with two root words.

Medical Terms with Two Root Words

Every root word has a combining vowel used with it. The combining vowels connect one root word to another root word and root words to suffixes. This is very important to remember. A combining form is a root word added to a combining vowel. Take the medical term “electrocardiogram for instance. The suffix is “-gram” and it means “record.” The beginning root word is “electr” which means “electricity.” The second root word is “cardi” which means “heart.” The two “o’s” are the combining vowels. When everything is combined the term electrocardiogram means to record electricity in the heart.

Medical Abbreviations

Another key point in understanding medical terminology is to understand the meaning of medical abbreviations. For instance, online LPN programs teach students that “a” means “artery” or “before.” They also learn other abbreviations such as BA, which means “barium,” BT, which means “bleeding time,” and b.i.n., which means “twice a night.” There are many other abbreviations in which nursing programs teach students. A student will learn them all in an LPN program and an RN program.

Anatomy and Physiology

This is one of the main classes anyone pursuing a career in healthcare must take. Anatomy and Physiology is the study of the body and its functions. These classes will typically eliminate those that are not doing well so it is very important to study hard in order to pass. Studying for this class or any other healthcare class can be done in study groups, by using flash cards, or by any means that works best for the individual student. There are also study guides and practice exams available online.

Testing Knowledge

By the time a person enrolls in online RN programs they will already have a good grasp on medical terminology and medical abbreviations. No matter how much a person knows though there is always room for improvement in order to stay on top of anything new that may be happening. A person may want to try a nursing terminology crossword, take nursing practice exams, or study up with medical terminology lessons. They may also want to try a medical terminology test or even sift through a medical terminology or the medical terminology and drug database.

Empathy and Compassion

A career in nursing requires an empathetic and compassionate person because on a daily basis they are helping those that are scared, sick, and in need or a caring person. A nurse can work in doctor’s offices, hospitals, the offices of specialists, schools, and prisons. The possibilities for nurses to find a stable job are endless and this career field only continues to grow. They should work well as part of a team as well as demonstrate leadership qualities as often times they are in charge of employees under them.


Nurses have a lot of responsibility and it is important that they be very reliable. Nurses make great money but money should not be the only motivating factor in this career choice. Helping and caring for people should be the main motivating factor. The money should be considered an added bonus. There are many online colleges and universities that offer nursing degree programs as well as local nursing schools and colleges. Any person that believes nursing is the perfect career that they will be truly happy with, the healthcare field needs them as well.