How to improve communication in medical environments
Posted on April 11th, 2013

Overseas-trained medical professionals are valued in Australia and enrich our multicultural society.  They play an important role in meeting a skills shortage and in fact, in many rural and remote areas in particular, the local population are heavily dependent on overseas-trained doctors.  However, many overseas trained doctors may from time-to-time, experience difficulties in communicating with their patients due to the considerable variation of their backgrounds.  Communication skills training is vital in these cases.

Interestingly, when we consider what patients want, most complaints by patients and the public about doctors deal with problems of communication not with clinical competency.  In fact, many studies have found significant positive associations between doctors’ communication skills and patients’ satisfaction.

To be a practicing doctor in Australia, overseas trained doctors must meet the Medical Registration Board language requirements plus the English language proficiency requirements as set by the Australian Medical Council.  Despite this, many doctors and patients may experience difficulties with misunderstandings or miscommunication.  Indeed, this is one of the key issues relating to Australian Medical Council candidates employed in Australian hospitals.

Doctors also need a high degree of proficiency in the language being used by their patients, as local colloquial terms and cultural nuances are used frequently in conveying meaning during the consultation. It is important therefore, that doctors who experience difficulties, develop their communication skills to assist in developing rapport with patients and reduce the likelihood of misunderstandings.

Accent reduction and English pronunciation training can help overseas trained doctors and overseas trained medical staff to develop more self-awareness in terms of their problematic areas in their speech and to learn strategies to improve their pronunciation skills.    Specialised training should also cover the local language, as well as strategies to facilitate understanding.

With appropriate guidance and practice, verbal communication skills can be improved to enhance the communication process with patients and colleagues and contribute to more optimal outcomes.

For information about communication skills courses for medical staff contact English Institute China.

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