Medical English is the specialized vocabulary used by healthcare professionals and clinical researchers. This page also discusses the communication techniques needed for effective work relationships.
Medical terminology is not enough.
If you're a medical professional in an English-speaking country (or communicating with an international audience), you also need to know how to speak English with patients, coworkers, and the public.
You may also need to write in English. It's important to consider your audience. The general public needs clear, non-technical English. Professional colleagues may need more detailed, technical explanations.
When writing for an international audience, remember many may not be native English speakers. It's worth the effort to double-check what you write to keep it clear and easy to understand.
Good English communication skills are essential!
Medical care really is a team effort!
If English is not your native language, the pages below may help you review basic communication in English:
For basic medical terminology, see Medical Vocabulary. It discusses common disease, exam, medication, and treatment vocabulary.
Medical Prefixes and Medical Suffixes give the Greek basis of medical terminology, as well as some practice exercises. Medical Words for Symptoms and their Causes gives some technical terms but also the words patients may use to describe how they’re feeling, as well as illnesses or conditions that often cause those symptoms.
Review Asking Questions & Giving Advice in English
The practice page also has a gap-fill exercise. It's a conversation between a discharge nurse and a patient who is preparing to leave the hospital. Choose the best helping verbs to complete the conversation. It's hands-on practice giving advice.
Review Sentence Structure & Writing in English
Patient Communication in Difficult Situations
The Anderson Cancer Center has very helpful videos showing compassionate communication with patients. Especially useful ones show how to give families bad news and deal with anger.
Their videos are all free and can earn CME (Continuing Medical Education) credits.
I watched almost all the videos myself and was very impressed. They're clear examples of best communication practices. They also explain the reasons different techniques work well (or don’t.)
Their English is easy to understand. Anyone with Intermediate or higher English skills will likely understand almost everything.
I especially recommend
There are lots of resources online, including medical dictionaries and some medical terminology.
It's designed to teach medical English communication in a class setting, where you can interact with others and a teacher can guide you. If that's not possible, you could still get great value from studying these materials on your own. You can do all the thinking, listening, reading, and writing activities by yourself. You could practice speaking and do many of the projects if you can work with a friend.
The listening exercises are especially useful. Listen to different English accents and expressions that patients or other health workers might use. Then think about how you would respond.
(Many of the TED talks are also translated into several languages. They also have written transcripts. You might watch in your first language for the main idea, and then watch and/or read in English. *There are more TEDMed talks than the few visible on that page. Click the white arrow on the right of each talk shown.)
Lots of their talks are about the practice of medicine. They raise good questions to think about while working on your English. You might start with this list of some TED popular talks by doctors.
There are more (often with related vocabulary practice) in some of our newsletter back issues, especially issues 23-24 & 31-36 (at the end of 2013 & the beginning of 2014, near the bottom of the page. This isn't new research, but the talks explain some very interesting ideas!)
There are several good free medical dictionaries online. They're useful if you need the meaning of a specific word, or want to know more about a specific medical procedure.
Home> Medical English for Health Professionals.