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Clinical Terminology for International and U.S. Students

University of Pittsburgh via Coursera


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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.)


  • 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 structure of abbreviations will help you to identify the meaning of abbreviations presented in this course, as well as those you encounter in the future.
  • 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 in which the terms and abbreviations are used. Making associations of the terms or abbreviations to specific people, places or types of patients will help to “set” them in your memory. Begin Week 2 by previewing the complex medical terms you will find in this lesson and sharpening your skills for analyzing the structure of complex terms.
  • 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 administration of intravenous infusions. Learning about abbreviations related to medication and intravenous fluid administration requires that you pay close attention.
  • 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 words or syllables usually form the acronym, and commonly at least one letter relates to a system of the body.
  • 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 or procedures typically required.
  • 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 reality-based video simulations.

Taught by

Michael Gold and Valerie Swigart


4.7 rating, based on 10 Class Central reviews

4.8 rating at Coursera based on 3027 ratings

Start your review of Clinical Terminology for International and U.S. Students

  • Desiree Landheer
    Good course to start learning medical terminology. I found it useful because I wanted to improve my knowledge of English medical terminology. I did not spend a lot of time on it because I already knew quite a lot of medical terminology in English and in other languages.
  • Kristina Bogovic
    A simple course focusing on the most common medical terminology. Lectures are in video format but consisting of short texts and quizzes only. Video download is not usable due to nature of lecture format. Otherwise, clear and to the point, with multiple exercises and easy assessments.
  • Peter M Abraham
    Very well done and delivered class. There was visual, auditory components and it just worked well in preparing me for clinicals in a RN program.
  • Profile image for Irene Borgatti
    Irene Borgatti
    If you're a linguist (i.e. a translator, interpreter or editor) and you want to familiarize with reading U.S. medical reports, or with the operation of the most common equipment in a clinical setting, this is the course for you!
  • Morison Greco Menezes Filho
  • Profile image for Alejandro Rafael Viluce
    Alejandro Rafael Viluce
  • Francisco Javier Jiménez

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