English for Medicine - A Prescription

Close up of doctor with bottle writing prescription. Getty Images / Hero Images

Students and teachers can use the following short description of prescriptions in order to expand and check common English usage of terms relating to medical prescriptions, as well as treatments. 

A prescription is written by a doctor to give patients medicine needed to alleviate symptoms, or stabilize a medical condition that might be chronic in nature. The prescription is written by a physician in order to tell the pharmacist which medication in required.

These often include a number of prescription abbreviations.

Prescriptions vs. Recommendations

Prescriptions are used for medications that a doctor feels is necessary for treatment. These are legal documents that are required in order to receive medicine which is prepared by the pharmacist in a pharmacy. Recommendations, on the other hand, are courses of action that a doctor fells will be helpful for the patient. These could include simple daily tasks such as taking a walk, or eating more fruits and vegetables. 

Dialogue: Giving A Prescription

Patient: … what about the problems I've been having sleeping?
Doctor: I'm going to give you a prescription for some medicine to help you get a better night's sleep.

Patient: Thank you doctor.
Doctor: Here, you can get this prescription at any pharmacy.

Patient: How often should I take the medicine?
Doctor: Just take one pill about 30 minutes before you go to bed.

Patient: How long should I take them?
Doctor: The prescription is for thirty days. If you're not sleeping well after thirty days, I'd like you to come back in.

Patient: Is there anything else I can do to help me sleep at night?
Doctor: Don't worry so much about things at work. I know, I know... easier said than done.

Patient: Should I stay home from work?
Doctor: No, I don't think that's necessary. Just remember to stay calm.

Understanding Prescriptions

Prescriptions Include:

  • Patient identifier: first and last name of the patient, as well as the date of birth (DOB)
  • Medication (also named "drug"): The medicine that is prescribed 
  • Strength: The strong of the medication prescribed (50 mg, 100 mg, etc.)
  • Amount: How often the patient should take the medicine
  • How much: Number of pills, tablets, etc. provided 
  • Frequency: How often the patient should take the medicine 
  • Route: How the patient should take the medicine (by mouth, topical, sublingual, etc.). 
  • Refills: How often the prescription should be renewed 
  • Signature: Signature of the physician writing the prescription
  • Date: The day on which the prescription was written

Key Vocabulary

  • amount = how much
  • chronic = recurring, happening again and again
  • drug = idiomatic term used to refer to medicine
  • easier said than done = not easy to do
  • frequency = how often something is done 
  • medical condition = illness, sickness, disease
  • medication = medicine
  • patient identifier = information that identifies a patient
  • pharmacist = person who has a license to prepare medications for patients
  • pharmacy = licensed store which sells medicine that requires a prescription
  • physician = doctor
  • prescription = order from a doctor for medicine
  • to refill = to provide medicine again based on a prescription 
  • route = how medicine should be taken
  • strength = how strong the medicine is
  • sublingual = under the tongue
  • to alleviate = to make easier, to relieve
  • to get a good night's sleep = to sleep enough to feel rested
  • topical = placed on the skin
  • to stabilize = to make regular 
  • to stay calm = to be relaxed 
  • to take a pill = to take medicine by mouth

More Medical Vocabulary