Teach Medical Terminology, the Fun Way

Use the five senses to help students learn and retain difficult medical words.

Medical terminology is challenging. It’s laced with long and playful words such as gastrojejunostomy, hysterosalpingostomy, and esophagogastroduodenoscopy. How can instructors teach such difficult medical terminology in a creative, effective way? Don’t let it become an arduous undertaking; make it fun by engaging all of your students’ senses: taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing.

Engage the Sense of Taste

When teaching medical terms related to the digestive system, taste buds come in handy. The digestive system begins with the oral cavity: lips, palates, tongue, gums, and teeth. Using foods that are sweet, sour, spicy, and salty is a great way to introduce the oral cavity and explain the process of mastication (chewing) and deglutition (swallowing). It tastes good, too!

Caution: Some students may have food allergies, so choose your food samples carefully.

Engage the Sense of Touch

Recently, a group of my students were given several cups of play dough. Using a chart found in The Language of Medicine (ninth edition), each student constructed his or her own version of the heart. The students then explained the blood flow and structure of the heart. This also enabled them to code more confidently from the CPT® codebook.

The students were also asked to use the play dough to construct the urinary system. The feedback from the students was positive. “I just know the body parts and terminology when I build the body system with play dough,” one student said. Another student added, “I don’t memorize anything, I learn it.”

Engage the Sense of Smell

Choose objects that are enjoyable or soothing to smell: Febreze®, cinnamon, or chocolate, for instance. Use this opportunity to explain respiration to your students.

Caution: Students who have allergies may not be able to participate and should be forewarned.

Engage the Sense of Sight

Teaching students medical terminology also involves a discussion of various procedures. For example, beginners may struggle to code Mohs surgery. Using a video clip of an actual Mohs surgery is an effective way to explain the various stages and frozen sections performed during this procedure.

Engage Hearing

Have the students read articles in Coding Edge or other materials out loud. The material should relate to the body system they are studying. By hearing the medical terms used and pronounced correctly, students retain the information longer.

There are several ways to teach. Keeping students physically engaged will ensure they learn—not just memorize—the medical terminology they will need to know for their entire career.

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Geanetta Johnson Agbona, CPC, CPC-I, CBCS, is a medical billing and coding instructor in Charlotte, N.C. She was recognized as “Instructor of Distinction” in 2010. She co-owns CGS Billing Service with her spouse, Charles Agbona. You can read her blog at www.cgsbillingservice.blogspot.com.

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