ProEnglish-Fatal-mistakes-in-Medical-English

We have already touched upon the topic of Healthcare and how English can help facilitate the work of doctors and their multi-national team in How English Can Save Lives! It cannot be stressed enough how clear and effective communication in the Healthcare sector, namely between doctors and patients, is mission critical.

This time we are going to be focusing on why English can be, actually is, a safety net for doctors.
Physicians are involved daily in communicating with their patients and do their best to apply their skills and knowledge for a superior healthcare service. But how many doctors put into practice good communication skills, especially when they need to interact with their international patients? Many physicians admit to feeling stressed when it comes to communicating in English with patients; not knowing the exact wording or terminology can be one of the main reasons why foreign patients can be a real challenge to doctors.

Interestingly enough, an article in the Guardian pinpoints the following: “Communication skills are integral to medical practice, and go far beyond simply “talking” to the patient”

We’d like to add our personal note: the importance of communications skills with solid English is also integral to medical practice.
Knowledge of Medical English can be an asset for every doctor simply for the following reasons:

  • easier communication with international patients: there are millions of expats around the world residing in other countries who don’t speak the local language; a physician who can communicate with them and provide a great treatment plan is a must.
  • accuracy in diagnosing a foreign patient: going far beyond the standard physician-patient interaction, it is only by taking into consideration every detail the patient shares, including his habits, heredity factors, previous health issues, that a superior care plan can be crafted.
  • a safe treatment plan and medicine administration:
    • correct and clear understanding of medicine dosing and units
    • familiarity with basic medical terms
    • precise posology to the patient
    • proper medical recordings that are shared with the medical team
    • correct and clear pronunciation of medical jargon to describe the state of health or any illness to the patient
    • treatment quality
  • equitable relationship: a physician fluent in English is a confident physician who can instill trust and positivity to his international patients and make them feel in safe hands
  • smooth cooperation between doctors and their multi-cultural team: understanding of patient’s history, sensitive cases, needs and treatment plan ensure treatment quality

Another interesting fact is that hospitals are flooded with patients on a daily basis. In the UK alone, a staggering number of 41,500 patients is admitted to hospital every day, and on a global scale the average number of patients that are hospitalised on a daily basis is enormous. Imagine how much pressure physicians and medical staff are under.

Operating in the healthcare and medical sector can lead to burnout, but what happens when it strikes doctors, who make decisions that can affect their patients’ lives? Anthony Montgomery, an associate professor in the Psychology of Work and Organizations at the University of Macedonia in Greece researching on physician burnout claims that doctors are set up for a career with high stress and frustration.

Working long hours, shifts, being on call can take its toll on doctors’ performance and well-being. The stress factor can be minimised significantly if physicians and medical staff have solid English skills to facilitate their work with their international patients.

Being a doctor means you are responsible for many lives and their safety. There is no room for errors, miscommunication or misunderstandings whether you use your local language or English as a channel of communication with your patients.

The case of David Gray who died while in the care of a German-trained doctor working as an out-of-hours GP in Cambridgeshire is a sad example in the medical world. The German GP admitted his “fatal mistake” derived from a confusion between drugs, one of which was not used by on-call services in Germany, and the “tremendous stress” he had been under, having only had about three hours rest before he started his shift. It was also discovered that he had failed his English language test.

This medical incident can be used to stress the fact that all doctors should be able to speak a good standard of English to lead incident-free careers while assisting national or international patients with ease and confidence.

If you are a medical expert and you wish to cultivate effective communication skills combined with solid Medical English proficiency ensuring a safer operational framework between you and your international patients, then our Healthcare Practice Accelerator course is for you!


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