From the ASWB exam content outline, a door into a whole world of info you might be expected to know: Basic medical terminology.

Well, that could mean lots of different things. Here's a long list of medical terms that's likely to cover what they're looking for followed by some exploration of how this material may appear on the licensing exam. Just look them over, see what you know, what you don't; this is not flash card material.

  • Acute: Having a rapid onset and a short duration.
  • Allergy: An abnormal immune response to a substance that is normally harmless.
  • Alzheimer's Disease: Progressive neurodegenerative disorder leading to memory loss, cognitive decline, and behavioral changes.
  • Antibiotic: A substance that kills or inhibits the growth of bacteria.
  • Antibody: A protein produced by the immune system in response to the presence of a specific antigen, such as a bacterium or virus.
  • Antigen: Any substance that triggers an immune response, leading to the production of antibodies.
  • Arthritis: Inflammation of the joints, often accompanied by pain and stiffness.
  • Apnea: A temporary cessation of breathing, particularly during sleep.
  • Asthma: Chronic respiratory condition characterized by airway inflammation, leading to wheezing, breathlessness, and coughing
  • Biopsy: The removal of a small piece of tissue for examination to diagnose a disease.
  • Cancer: A group of diseases characterized by the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells.
  • Cardiology: The branch of medicine that deals with the study and treatment of the heart.
  • Cardiovascular Disease: Conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels, including heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure.
  • Catheter: A flexible tube inserted into the body for various purposes, such as draining fluids or administering medications.
  • Chronic: Persisting over a long period of time or recurring frequently.
  • Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD): Progressive loss of kidney function, leading to complications like fluid retention and electrolyte imbalances.
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): Lung diseases, like chronic bronchitis and emphysema, hindering airflow and causing breathing difficulties.
  • CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation): Emergency life-saving procedure performed when a person's breathing or heartbeat has stopped.
  • Diagnosis: The identification of a disease or condition based on its signs and symptoms.
  • Diuretic: A substance that promotes the production of urine, often used to treat conditions like high blood pressure or edema.
  • Dose: The quantity of a drug or medicine prescribed to be taken at one time.
  • Dermatology: The branch of medicine that focuses on the skin and its diseases.
  • Diabetes: A metabolic disorder characterized by elevated blood sugar levels, often requiring insulin or medication.
    • Type 1 Diabetes: Autoimmune condition where the body's immune system destroys insulin-producing cells, leading to insulin dependency.
    • Type 2 Diabetes: Metabolic disorder characterized by insulin resistance and inadequate insulin production, often associated with lifestyle factors.
  • Dyspnea: Difficulty or discomfort in breathing.
  • Embolism: The sudden blockage of a blood vessel by an embolus (a clot, air bubble, or other foreign material).
  • Endocrinology: The branch of medicine that studies the endocrine system and its disorders.
  • Fever: An elevation of body temperature above the normal range.
  • Gastritis: Inflammation of the lining of the stomach.
  • Gastroenterology: The branch of medicine focused on the digestive system and its disorders.
  • Genetics: The study of genes and heredity.
  • Glucose: A simple sugar that serves as the primary source of energy for the body's cells.
  • Hematology: The branch of medicine that deals with the study of blood, blood-forming tissues, and blood disorders.
  • Hemorrhage: Excessive bleeding, either internally or externally.
  • Hormones: Chemical messengers produced by glands in the endocrine system to regulate various bodily functions.
  • Hospice: End-of-life care emphasizing comfort, dignity, and support for patients facing life-limiting illnesses and their families.
  • Hypertension: High blood pressure, a condition where the force of the blood against the walls of the arteries is consistently too high.
  • Hypoglycemia: Abnormally low blood sugar levels, which can lead to weakness, confusion, and, in severe cases, unconsciousness.
  • Hypotension: Low blood pressure, a condition where the force of the blood against the artery walls is too low.
  • Immunity: The body's ability to resist or fight off infection and disease.
  • Infection: The invasion and multiplication of microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites, in the body.
  • Inflammation: The body's response to injury or infection, often characterized by redness, heat, swelling, and pain.
  • Insulin: A hormone that regulates blood sugar levels by facilitating the uptake of glucose by cells.
  • Irrigation: Flushing out a cavity or wound with a fluid, often to clean or remove debris.
  • Migraine: A type of headache characterized by severe pain, nausea, and light sensitivity.
  • Nausea: A sensation of unease and discomfort in the stomach, often leading to the urge to vomit.
  • Nephrology: The branch of medicine concerned with the kidneys and their diseases.
  • Neurology: The branch of medicine that deals with disorders of the nervous system.
  • Obesity: Excessive body weight, associated with health risks such as diabetes, heart disease, and joint problems.
  • Obstetrics: The branch of medicine that deals with pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period.
  • Ophthalmology: The branch of medicine dealing with the anatomy, functions, and diseases of the eye.
  • Orthopedics: The branch of medicine dealing with the correction of deformities of bones or muscles.
  • Osteoporosis: Weakening of bones, increasing fracture risk, often associated with aging or hormonal changes.
  • Palpitation: A rapid or irregular heartbeat that may be felt by the patient.
  • Pathology: The study of diseases.
  • Pediatrics: The branch of medicine dealing with the health and medical care of infants, children, and adolescents.
  • Phlebotomy: The practice of drawing blood from a vein, usually for diagnostic purposes.
  • Physiology: The study of how the body functions.
  • Prognosis: The likely course and outcome of a disease.
  • Pulmonology: The branch of medicine that deals with the respiratory system and its diseases.
  • Radiation therapy: The use of high-dose radiation to treat cancer and other diseases.
  • Radiology: The branch of medicine that uses imaging techniques, such as X-rays and CT scans, to diagnose and treat diseases.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis: Autoimmune disorder affecting joints, causing pain, swelling, and potential joint deformities.
  • Sepsis: A severe, potentially life-threatening complication of an infection that can lead to organ failure.
  • Stroke: Sudden interruption of blood flow to the brain, resulting in neurological deficits like paralysis or speech impairment.
  • Syndrome: A group of symptoms that consistently occur together and characterize a particular condition or abnormality.
  • Tumor: An abnormal mass or lump of tissue that may be benign or malignant.
  • Urology: The branch of medicine that deals with the urinary tract and male reproductive system.
  • Vaccine: A substance that stimulates the immune system to produce immunity to a specific disease.
  • Virus: A microscopic infectious agent that can only replicate within the cells of a living host.

Medical Terminology on the Social Work Exam

You're unlikely to see a simple definition question about these terms (eg "Which best describes a virus"). Medical terms are more likely to be embedded into vignette questions where understanding the terms is vital, but not all you need to know to answer the question correctly. Maybe something like this:

  • A social worker meets with a family whose loved one has been recently diagnosed with cancer. The family is struggling with understanding the prognosis and making treatment decisions. What would be the FIRST intervention?
  • In a pediatric clinic, a social worker encounters a mother who brings in her child experiencing recurrent nausea and vomiting. The child's primary care physician suspects a gastrointestinal issue. In this situation, the social worker would fulfill what role?
  • In a palliative care setting, a social worker is working with a family whose loved one is in the final stages of a terminal illness. The family is struggling with communication and decision-making about end-of-life care. What should be the social worker's primary focus?

For questions like these--on this topic and many, many others--including answers and thorough rationales, get started with Social Work Test Prep's full-length exams stat.*

SWTake Me There.

*Stat: An abbreviation for the Latin word "statim," meaning immediately or at once. 

November 16, 2023
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