English for the Workplace: Doing Patient-Centred Care in Medical Communication

  • Maria R. Dahm Macquarie University
  • Lynda Yates Macquarie University


Canada, like other first-world countries, relies in large part on professional im- migrants trained in other cultures and languages to complement its workforce in a wide range of professions, including medicine. International medical graduates (IMGs) who are nonnative English-speaking (NNES) and who have trained in different medical contexts are often unfamiliar with the sociopragmatic norms underlying both general communication and medical practice in their new host countries, and as a result they can have difficulty using the pragmalinguistic resources needed to strike the appropriate interpersonal note in patient-centred approaches to communication. In this article we used data collected through role-plays performed in an Australian setting by practicing, locally trained, native English-speaking (NES) doctors and NNES IMGs to identify the features of patient-centred medical communication that the latter can find challenging. This approach allowed us to use the discourse to highlight those features of approachability that are likely to be relevant to immigrant professionals in both Canada and Australia. It also helped us to illustrate how discourse data can be used to identify culturally appropriate ways of communicating that can, in turn, contribute to an accurate evidence base from which culturally appropriate communication courses for IMGs and other professionals may be developed.

Author Biographies

Maria R. Dahm, Macquarie University
Maria R. Dahm is an Early Career Fellow in the Department of Linguistics at Macquarie Uni- versity. She completed her PhD on the impact of medical terminology on English-medium consultations. Maria’s research interests include communication and culture in intercultural workplace contexts, experiences and challenges for international medical graduates, and Eng- lish for Specific Purposes.
Lynda Yates, Macquarie University
Lynda Yates is currently Associate Professor and Head of Linguistics at Macquarie University, Sydney. Her professional experience teaching adult TESOL and consulting to industry have fuelled an interest in research that can feed into the practical concerns of adult language learners and their teachers, and in particular the pronunciation and pragmatic needs of immigrants and transnational professionals. She has a strong commitment to the translation of research findings into professional practice.
How to Cite
Dahm, M., & Yates, L. (2014). English for the Workplace: Doing Patient-Centred Care in Medical Communication. TESL Canada Journal, 30(7), 21. https://doi.org/10.18806/tesl.v30i7.1150