For CAs: The Language of the Health-Care Professions
We would all like to thank Dr. Richard C. Schafer, DC, PhD, FICC for his lifetime commitment to the profession. In the future we will continue to add materials from RC’s copyrighted books for your use.
This is Chapter 4 from RC’s best-selling book:
“The Chiropractic Assistant”
These materials are provided as a service to our profession. There is no charge for individuals to copy and file these materials. However, they cannot be sold or used in any group or commercial venture without written permission from ACAPress.
Chapter 4: The Language of the Health-Care Professions
When more than one person is involved in any task, good communication is basic for success. Thus, a sound foundation in chiropractic terminology is an important functional skill to be possessed by any chiropractic assistant. It is a requisite to becoming an important asset to the office.
If a CA’s duties include taking dictation of case histories, examination findings, or narrative reports, she must know how to record scientific terms in shorthand and know how to spell them accurately. A good medical dictionary will be an important reference. Even if dictation is not required, she still must know what the doctor means when certain terms are used. He will expect his assistants to have a fundamental grasp of commonly used medical terms, abbreviations, and acronyms.
Do not enter this study lightly. On the other hand, do not let yourself be appalled by the formidable and specialized vocabulary used in health care. The learning of professional terms will not come overnight. It will extend the entire length of your career as new and unfamiliar words are confronted.
THE UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE OF HEALTH CARE: WHY IT IS NECESSARY
It would not be unusual if you found many words used in the first three chapters of this program strange or at least unknown. When you undertake the transposition from lay person to chiropractic assistant, you are faced with an entirely new language that must be mastered so the transition be successful. The most efficient method to accomplish this is by securing an understanding of basic word roots, prefixes, and suffixes used in the formation of technical words and gaining an understanding of the meaning of commonly used abbreviations and acronyms. Study and repetitive use is the way to mastery.
A fundamental knowledge of anatomy (structure) and physiology (function) will be of great assistance in learning terminology. A basic understanding of human anatomy and physiology is offered in the following chapter. This chapter will prepare you for the terminology of those and other clinical subjects. While professional terms may at first seem strange, you will see their purpose in this and following chapters.
PHONETICS: THE QUICK WAY TO GRASP MEANINGS
In studying the terminology of any science as in learning any language, phonetics or word sound plays an important role. While you will never need to know how to spell or pronounce every word in your reference dictionary, you will be required to be familiar with common terms and know where and how to look up unfamiliar terms. Phonetics and an understanding of prefixes and suffixes will be helpful, if not necessary, to do this.
There are two simple rules for correct pronunciation of scientific terms. They are based on the syllable breakdown of the word and the occurrence of vowels (a, e, i, o, u):
- If the vowel is not followed by a consonant in the same syllable, it has the long sound; eg, the word abdomen (ab-do-men). Here the “o” in “do” has the long low sound.
- If the vowel is followed by a consonant in the same syllable, it has the short sound; eg, the word abdominal (ab-dom-i-nal). Here the “o” in “dom” has the short higher sound as in “Tom.”
HOW THE WORDS ARE FORMED
As chiropractic vocabulary is studied, the student will find it made largely of many variations of various roots, prefixes, and suffixes in different combinations. Thus the number of word parts necessary to learn is not so great as one would suspect.
Most technical words used in chiropractic terminology come from the root languages (Greek and Latin). Some are pure translations; others are combined forms of Greek and Latin. While the number of English words is enlarging, prefixes and suffixes usually remain Greek or Latin.
Besides Greek and Latin, other languages have had their influence. Words such as alcohol, alkali, camphor, and tartar are derived from Arabic. Many simple anatomical terms such as arm, back, bladder, blood, finger, foot, gut, hair, hand, knee, liver, lung, mouth, neck, ache, fat, and sick are Anglo-Saxon in origin. Other monosyllable terms such as ill, leg, and skin are of Scandinavian descent. Words such as chancre, cretin, fontanelle, grippe, malaise, poison, role, cul de sac, grand and petite mal and tic douloureux come from the French, as do such Americanized terms as goiter, gout, malinger, jaundice, ointment, and physician. Some examples of Greek-French terms are surgeon, plaster, migraine, and palsy. From the Italian we have gained the words influenza and malaria, and from the Dutch, cough, litmus, and splint. The Germans, Persians, Chinese, and Spanish also have contributed their share.
It is not unusual for a student new to health science terminology to recoil in fright when confronted with a term such as
hemangioendothelioblastoma. But once the roots, prefixes, and suffixes making such compounds are learned, what seems at first impression to be unintelligible soon becomes quite clear.
For this reason, commonly used prefixes, suffixes, and word elements should be studied diligently. The first step is to break a compound term into its parts. For example, view the example given above as
hem + angio + endothelio + blast + oma
This aid spelling, pronunciation, and remembering. Once the definitions of these units are known, the meaning of the compound word is understood.
hem – blood angio – vessel endothelio – endothelium blast – primitive cell (or, germ cell) oma – tumor
Thus, Hemangioendothelioblastoma translates as:
Other examples of how words are made and their literal meanings are cardiogram, meaning tracing of heart action, from cardio (heart) + gram (picture); colitis, meaning inflammation of the lower intestine, from col (colon) + itis (inflammation); and leukocytes, meaning white blood cells, from leuko (white) + cytes (cells).
COMMON LATIN AND GREEK WORD ROOTS
Table 4.1 lists many common Latin and Greek roots used in chiropractic terminology. Some word elements are frequently placed before other word elements as prefixes or after other elements as suffixes. For euphony, a vowel or a consonant is sometimes added to or subtracted from word elements in combination.
Refer to Table 4.1. The root is given first; then a brief definition follows.
|Note: Because of the length of the following table, you may want to jump to the next section:|
Table 4.1. Common Latin and Greek Roots
|ana||to build up|
|atrophy||a wasting away|
|caco||bad, poor, sick|
|dexia||on the right|
|embryo||to grow within|
|graph||to write, record|
|ileum||distal small intestine|
|lysis||to dissolve, breakdown|
|meta||between, after, beyond|
|mis||bad, poor, dislike|
|mono||single, alone, one|
|nosto||to return, go|
|olig||little, sparse, few|
|paleo||old, ancient, past|
|partum||to give birth to|
|phren||mind, head, skull|
|pnea||to breathe, breath|
|psyche||mind, soul, spirit|
|pulsus||pulse, stroke, beat|
|rar||thin, rare, sparse|
|schist(o)||to separate, split|
|schiz||to divide, split|
|tonus</td >||tone, sound|
|ultra||over, beyond, excess|
COMMON LATIN AND GREEK PREFIXES
Table 4.2 lists common prefixes. Remember that a word element may be placed before or after another element or as the word denoting the meaning when used with another prefix or suffix. Also recall that a vowel or consonant is sometimes added or subtracted between combined word elements to obtain euphony. In Table 4.2, prefixes are shown in the left column followed by their common definition. Examples and their definitions are shown in the columns on the right.
|Note: Because of the length of the following table,
you may want to jump to the next section:
Table 4.2. Common Prefixes and Examples of Use
|Review the complete Chapter (including sketches and Tables)
at the ACAPress website