English for Medical Professionals, Part 1

English for Medical Professionals
Today, we’ll look at some common English words and their medical meanings. In English for medical professionals, these words are used in specific ways.


In medical terminology, infant usually refers to a child who is 12 months older or less. Developmentally, the medical profession defines infants as very young children who cannot yet walk or talk.


The toddler age group gets its name from the way that young children move when they are just starting to walk. A shaky, unsteady way of walking is referred to as a toddle. Physicians and other medical professionals usually define toddlers as children between the ages of 1 and 4. Some medical professionals may define the age range of toddlers more narrowly, using this term to refer to children between 18 months and 3 years of age.

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In common English use, a fluid is anything that’s liquid. In the medical profession, fluids refer to certain types of liquids. Medically, fluids has two definitions related to two different classes of liquid.

Fluids word can refer to the liquids that medical patients drink. A medicine can be a drinkable fluid rather than a pill. Or a doctor might tell a patient to “push fluids.” This means that the patient should drink a lot of liquids– juice, water, milk, etc…

In medical terms, fluids may also refer to liquids that are naturally made by the human body. Blood, sweat, saliva, and stomach acids are all bodily fluids.


In its most common English use, screen refers to a wire mesh… the kind you’d see in a window. But for medical professionals, the term screen has a very different meaning. In medicine, screen is a verb, meaning “to test.” A doctor may screen a patient for physical problems, or a medical laboratory can screen a blood sample for certain illnesses. Screen has a related noun form in medicine. A screen can refer to a test for health problems. It can also refer to the results of such a test.

Practicing these (and other) words in medicine

In a later post in this series, I’ll give you some reading and listening practice for these vocabulary words. Until then, there are many other places where you can practice your medical English. For practice with English for medical professionals, I especially recommend two websites. The Merck Manual Professional Version offers free English-language articles and guides for doctors, nurses, and other medical staff. WebMD has similar free material on its website, although the language and tone is geared more towards medical patients than healthcare professionals.

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  • David Recine

    David is a Test Prep Expert for Magoosh TOEFL and IELTS. Additionally, he's helped students with TOEIC, PET, FCE, BULATS, Eiken, SAT, ACT, GRE, and GMAT. David has a BS from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and an MA from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. His work at Magoosh has been cited in many scholarly articles, his Master's Thesis is featured on the Reading with Pictures website, and he's presented at the WITESOL (link to PDF) and NAFSA conferences. David has taught K-12 ESL in South Korea as well as undergraduate English and MBA-level business English at American universities. He has also trained English teachers in America, Italy, and Peru. Come join David and the Magoosh team on Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram, or connect with him via LinkedIn!

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2 Responses to English for Medical Professionals, Part 1

  1. DANIELLE VAUGHN March 12, 2017 at 12:51 pm #

    Hi, I will be starting an online TEFL course in July. I have over 13 years experience working in mostly an administrative capacity in the healthcare field. Rheumatology, ENT, ICU, Radiology, Ophthalmology and Critical Care Transport. I was also a certified EMT a few years back. I’m interested in teaching English to Medical Professionals. Do you know of any reputable programs where one can learn this specialty? Or do you think the combo of being TEFL certified and having a background in the healthcare field would be sufficient? Thanks

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert March 13, 2017 at 3:35 am #

      Hi Danielle,

      Good question! Typically, teachers should be fluent in English and proficient in health care field. It sounds like you are definitely there so far. There are limited TESOL (different from TEFL) programs I have seen that specialize in medical English teaching, but I don’t get the impression that this is necessary. Whether the TEFL is sufficient as a teaching credential will depend on the places you want to teach. You clearly have the medical background, so it will be a matter of finding a place that sees your TEFL as enough education training. I have friends that had to do the DELTA, for example, or a MA TESOL to be eligible for jobs they wanted. At the very least, make sure your TEFL includes adult learner modules or is fully for teaching adults. You don’t need a 100-hour course focused on young children if you intend to teach medical English, after all!

      I might recommend reaching out to places you hope to work and find out what qualifications they would look for in a candidate. This will give you the best idea of what your desired field is looking for from you. Good luck! 🙂

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