Medical Terminology Teaching Tip: Interview a Health Professional
Students are asked to spend 15-20 minutes with a healthcare professional on discussing the use of medical language on the job and sharing what they find with the class as a whole.
This is one of my favorite assignments for the medical terminology courses I teach.
I prefer to make this assignment low stakes by allowing students to conduct informal interviews with someone they know who works in healthcare, though I encourage those who are motivated to find a professional who works in the field the student would like to be employed.
- Deeper understanding of why we study medical language – students develop a greater appreciation for why and how terms are used in healthcare practice.
- Increased understanding of healthcare professions’ use of medical language– as students share their interviews, the class as a whole learns how various professions within the healthcare field employ different sets of medical terms.
- Opportunity to discuss the inclusive and exclusive nature of medical language – discussions highlight how the use of medical language with other healthcare professionals improves communication, but that use with patients can create confusion.
- Increased awareness of how important it is to use the correct abbreviations – the discussion often highlights negative outcomes from incorrect use of abbreviations in the workplace. I use this opportunity to point out the abbreviation appendix in Exploring Medical Language, which contains Error-Prone Abbreviation List compiled by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices.
Nuts and Bolts for the Instructor
- When – I assign the Healthcare Professional Interview for the third week of class. This gives students two weeks to become familiar with the class itself, and it is early enough in the semester to help students connect with why they are studying medical language. I make sure to include the assignment in the course syllabus and give information about it in the first two weeks of class so that students can prepare.
- Submitting the Assignment – for online classes, I have students post their interview in a discussion and assign others in the class to respond to a question, insight, or additional information. In face-to-face classes, I have students share their interviews in small groups and then have them report out to the whole class what they learned. A copy of the interview summary is turned in for grading either by posting in a discussion or by handing in hardcopy.
- Assignment Description – here is an example of a written description of the assignment that I share with students:
Assignment Description for the Student
Spend about 15-20 minutes interviewing a healthcare professional about his/her use of medical language. The interview is informal and can be with a friend, neighbor, or family member who works in health care. Before the interview, identify several questions you would like to ask. Consider asking about specific examples of terms and abbreviations commonly used, and perhaps about how the use of medical language has changed throughout her or his career. Also, ask about the use of electronic health records and how medical language is used within the records. Interviews may be conducted in person, by phone, or by email.
In your assignment, include:
- A brief description of your interviewee, such as first name, position title, perhaps how long they have worked in health care, etc.
- The questions asked
- A summary of the interview with a reflection on what was most significant or surprising
Here is a quick brainstorm as a starting point for generating your own list of questions:
- What is the purpose of medical language?
- How do you use medical language on the job?
- How does using medical language support your professional role?
- Can you share examples of word parts, terms, and abbreviations you use daily?
- How do you use electronic health records in your work?
- How and/or why is medical language used in patient records?
- How has the impact of electronic medical records impacted the use of medical language on the job?
- What do you do when you encounter a term you don’t know?
Again, I invite you to try this assignment in your medical terminology course. Feel free to use, edit, and adapt any element of this post. Let me know how it goes for you!
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