You’ve earned your nursing degree in your home country and are ready to prove your English skills to apply for licensure in the U.S. – congratulations! Now it’s time to master the vocabulary you will use frequently in your profession.

We’ve assembled the following common vocabulary words used in hospitals, clinics, doctor’s offices, and other healthcare settings to get you started.

Common Health Problems

  • Fever: a very high temperature.
  • Cough: a sudden expulsion of air from the lungs.
  • Allergy: a response from the immune system (red eyes, runny nose, skin irritation etc.), usually to a certain food, medicine, material, or smell.
  • Infection: invasion and multiplication of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, etc.
  • Asthma: a respiratory condition that causes difficulty in breathing.
  • Diabetes: a chronic condition that affects the body’s ability to use sugar.
  • Migraine: a type of severe headache.
  • Anxiety: a mental health disorder that causes a lot of fear and worry.
  • Depression: a mental health condition characterized by a constant feeling of sadness and disinterest..
  • Arthritis: a condition that causes pain and stiffness in your body’s joints. 
  • Fracture: a break or crack in a bone usually requiring medical attention.
  • Flu: influenza; an infectious disease caused by a virus.
  • Indigestion: discomfort in the stomach, often after eating.
  • Hypertension: also known as high blood pressure.

Medical Procedures


  • Check-up: a routine examination by a doctor or dentist.
  • X-ray: a type of imaging test using radiation to view inside the body.
  • Blood test: laboratory analysis of a blood sample.
  • Biopsy: the removal and examination of body cells, liquid, or tissue to diagnose a condition.
  • MRI scan: an imaging test using magnetic fields to create detailed images of the body.
  • Ultrasound: a diagnostic tool using sound waves to view internal organs.
  • CT scan: a type of X-ray providing cross-sectional images of the body.
  • ECG: a test that records heart activity and can detect heart problems.


  • Surgery: a medical procedure used to repair or remove parts of the body.
  • Therapy: treatment to relieve or heal a disorder.
  • Medication: a substance used to treat an illness or condition.
  • Vaccination: administration of a vaccine to help the body develop immunity to a disease.
  • Chemotherapy: a cancer treatment using drugs to kill or slow the growth of cancer cells.
  • Radiation therapy: a cancer treatment using high-energy radiation to kill cancer cells.
  • Dialysis: a treatment for kidney failure to remove waste products from the blood.
  • Insulin therapy: a treatment for diabetes to control blood sugar levels.
  • Antibiotics: medications that fight bacterial  infections.
  • Immunotherapy: a treatment that boosts the immune system often used for cancer patients.
  • Transplant: replacing a failing organ with a healthy one from a donor.
  • Physical therapy/rehabilitation: a program to restore strength and mobility after injury or surgery.
  • Inhaler: a device delivering medication to the lungs, often used for asthma.
  • Acupuncture: therapy using needles to stimulate specific points and treat pain.


Hospital Vocabulary

Hospital Staff

  • Doctor: a medical professional.
  • Nurse: a healthcare provider trained to assist doctors and care for patients.
  • Surgeon: a doctor specialized in performing surgeries; operates on patients.
  • Pharmacist: a professional who dispenses prescribed medications.
  • Therapist: a professional who provides therapy.
  • Radiologist: a doctor specialized in imaging.
  • Anesthesiologist: a doctor who administers medicines to prevent pain during surgeries and procedures.
  • Pathologist: a doctor who analyzes body tissues and fluids.
  • Psychologist: a mental health professional who provides counseling and therapy.
  • Paramedic: a healthcare professional who provides emergency medical care outside the hospital.
  • Dietitian: creates eating plans for patients.

Hospital Departments

  • Emergency Room (ER): a part of the hospital providing immediate treatment for urgent conditions.
  • Operating Room (OR): a sterile environment where surgical procedures are performed.
  • Ward: a hospital unit where patients with similar conditions are treated.
    • Maternity ward: a section of the hospital specifically for childbirth and newborn care.
    • Pediatric ward: a section of the hospital dedicated to treating children.
  • Pharmacy: a place where medications are stored and dispensed.
  • Clinic: a healthcare facility providing regular or specialized outpatient care.
  • Intensive Care Unit (ICU): a special hospital department for critically ill patients.
  • Laboratory: a place where medical tests are conducted.
  • Rehabilitation center: a facility that helps patients recover after surgeries or injuries.
  • Waiting room: an area where patients and their guests wait before, during or after appointments or treatments.
  • Radiology department: the part of the hospital where imaging tests are performed.
  • Outpatient department: where patients receive treatments without being admitted overnight.