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How to Learn Medical Abbreviations

Learning medical abbreviations is a key component to achieving success in the health care industry. Standardized medical abbreviations are used to streamline communication and make important processes like reporting easier. Since time may be limited due to various deadlines and emergency situations, familiarizing yourself with medical abbreviations will ensure you can send and interpret data efficiently.

Build a strong foundation. Focus on common medical abbreviations to establish a solid knowledge base before learning more complex ones. Learning the most commonly used terms allows you to understand a large amount of information with little confusion. For example, abbreviations used to describe patient liberties and activity levels can be applied to numerous medical settings. Pay attention to doctor’s orders, prescriptions and daily reports to get a feel for commonly used terms.

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Extend your knowledge base. In addition to learning standard abbreviations, it’s necessary to study medical abbreviations that are specific to your clinical area. For example, the abbreviations used in an oncology office will differ from those used in a pediatric office. Ask for a list of workplace-specific abbreviations from your employer. Make sure you know the meanings of these abbreviations prior to completing orders or writing reports.

Keep a pocket dictionary handy. Memorizing every medical abbreviation isn’t a realistic goal due to the amount of abbreviations in use. Pull out your pocket dictionary to double-check abbreviations you’re unfamiliar with. Although relying on a coworker for information is useful, you’re more likely to retain information if you look it up yourself. Taber’s medical dictionaries provide useful knowledge for a convenient price.

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Use medical terminology tools and study guides. Use your spare time to retain and expand your knowledge base. Follow a self-paced course like those offered by Roget’s to monitor your progress. Try online sites like for extra practice and useful reference guides. Consider asking a friend to join in for friendly competition.

Gain initial knowledge or refresh your memory by enrolling in a medical terminology certification course. Medical abbreviations are covered extensively in both online and on-campus programs. Courses offered by institutions such as Penn Foster are nationally accredited. Get practice recognizing medical abbreviations at sites like, where users submit their own tests and guides.


Practice using and recognizing medical abbreviations in your daily life.


Never try to cram medical abbreviations into your memory. Taking the time to learn them will ensure you retain the proper meanings.