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How to learn the medical English you really need

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Learning the correct specialist terms is important for doctors and nurses, but there is much more to learning medical English. Students of medical English can prepare for real-life situations by …

Learning the correct specialist terms is important for doctors and nurses, but there is much more to learning medical English. Students of medical English can prepare for real-life situations by using role-play to practice the language skills they need.

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  • 1. How to learn the medical English you really need Avatar Languages We are an online language school offering private classes in English, Spanish and other languages. Find out more about our innovative teaching at www.avatarlanguages.com Page 1/2 Learning the correct specialist terms is important for doctors and nurses, but there is much more to learning medical English. Students of medical English can prepare for real-life situations by using role-play to practice the language skills they need. More than terminology Medical English courses often focus on the medical terminology and specialist language. Yet doctors and nurses also need a much broader range of language skills to be effective in their work, because much of their communication is with patients or other non-medical staff, who do not use this specialized English. Real medical English Doctors and nurses need to be competent and confident using both technical and colloquial language. Medical staff often find they need to translate between the ordinary and specialized ways of talking: colleagues want to be efficient and precise, yet patients want to easily understand and be reassured that their health is in good hands. Example situation: bedside manner Bedside manner is the ability to communicate with patients in a compassionate, caring and clear way, which often means not using medical terms, but instead using more colloquial language. Bedside manner is gaining increasing recognition as an important skill. Many medical schools now include it in their training and some formal examinations (such as the USMLE) require trainee doctors to demonstrate their professional bedside manner using role-play. Doctors and nurses with good bedside manner are able to listen, support and reassure their patients; yet they also offer honest and open communication. It is not an easy balance to keep, but there are clear benefits for both the patient and the doctor. Patients feel more comfortable and they have greater confidence in their doctors; doctors gain more accurate information from their patients (and so reduce the risk of mistakes) and they build a more trusting relationship. Broader communication skills Bedside manner involves key communication skills that help the doctor or nurse relate to the patient. • Compassionate listening allows the doctor to get a more complete picture of the patient’s situation and it also helps the patient feel heard and understood. • Politely requesting permission (to sit on the patient’s bed or to take the patient’s temperature) demonstrates respect to the patient, and gives them greater control in an uncertain situation. • Translating between technical & colloquial language allows the doctor to explain medical treatment so that the patient understands. The doctor also needs to be able to accurately discuss the case with medical colleagues. • Discussing emotions as well as physical sensations can help patients feel more comfortable. These skills are especially challenging for non-native speakers. Medical terminology may seem more accurate, but patients actually need medical staff to talk in an ordinary way. This can be difficult for doctors and nurses who are not speaking in their native language, so students of medical English need to learn and practice the language they need in real-life situations. Preparing for real-life situations
  • 2. How to learn the medical English you really need Avatar Languages We are an online language school offering private classes in English, Spanish and other languages. Find out more about our innovative teaching at www.avatarlanguages.com Page 2/2 Students can make use of language classes to help prepare for specific situations at work. Simulations or role-plays allow the student to think about scenarios that are especially difficult or frequently occur. They can then prepare what they want to be able to say next time it happens. • Frequent & difficult situations: concentrating on situations that often happen allows the non- native speaking doctor/nurse to feel both comfortable and professional in everyday situations. It is also important to consider challenging scenarios because these can be worrisome, even though they may not take place that often. • Role-plays: students can prepare by writing out a typical conversation, correcting it with the teacher in lesson and then practicing it in a simulated dialogue. The student may want to play both roles, to better understand how patients respond. • Phrases: learning phrases (and not just individual words) gives students small chunks of language that they can use again and again in similar (but different) circumstances. Phrases allow us to respond more quickly in conversation because we don’t spend time thinking about how to construct a sentence. We use some phrases again and again, so these ones are especially good to learn. • Relevant and motivating: when students focus on real situations the lessons are much more relevant and motivating; it also means the student is learning exactly what is needed, when it is needed. Practice what is really needed Doctors and nurses who are not native speakers of English need to focus on the kind of language they really need to use at work. Some of this may be technical terminology, but much of it will be more colloquial and it is important to practice this informal language too. Mastering both specialized and informal English allows medical staff to work effectively and develop good professional relationships with both colleagues and patients. Students of medical English can prepare for these future conversations using role-play in language lessons. Role-plays and simulations create a safe space to experiment with a range of scenarios and to gain a sense of how different language can be used according to the situation.

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