for Health Professionals & Others
Medical English is
the specialized vocabulary used by health care professionals, as well as the
communication techniques they need to work effectively with patients and
is not enough. Doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other professionals also need
to know how to use English in health care settings. Clear communication is
essential to recognizing health problems and making diagnoses, giving proper
treatments, and avoiding dangerous errors.
Learn how to ask
clear questions and elicit the information needed from your patients/clients,
how to report observations and actions to coworkers, and how to give clear
instructions, suggestions, or explanations to clients and their families as
well as to those you supervise.
For basic medical
terminology, including titles of medical professionals and common disease, exam,
medication, and treatment vocabulary, see Medical Vocabulary.
On this page, for help with forming questions, reporting
patient information, and giving advice or instructions, see Clear Communication for Health Professionals below. Then check out Other Medical English Resources, and Where to Start.
Communication for Health Professionals
- Using Helping Verbs to Give Advice and Practice Giving Advice give example of various
expressions and techniques for making suggestions. The practice page also
has a gapfill exercise based on a conversation between a discharge nurse
and a patient who is preparing to leave the hospital. Choose the best
helping verbs to complete the conversation and get hands-on practice with
- Question Formation shows the different ways to ask
questions in English, also using examples from health care settings.
Cancer Center has very helpful videos on clear, compassionate communication
with patients. They are especially helpful in difficult situations such as giving
patients or their families bad news, or when strong emotions are involved.
Their videos are all free and can earn CME (Continuing Medical Education)
I watched almost all the videos myself, and was very
impressed. They offer clear examples of best communication practices and
explain the reasons different techniques work well (or don’t.) Although
designed for professionals, the English is clear and fairly basic—much simpler
than a lot English-language information on the web. Anyone with Intermediate or
higher English skills will likely understand almost everything.
recommend the basic principles video (under 12 minutes), the 5 SPIKES videos
(33 minutes), and “My mother’s not to be told”—2 videos, 12 minutes).
Medical English Resources
- There are a number of resources online,
including medical dictionaries and some medical terminology. Englishmed has
thousands of animated dialogues for doctors, nurses, pharmacists and
general med staff as well as practice exercises.
- English Health
Train is a
wonderful resource for English classes for health professionals. They have
a complete, communicative curriculum with a variety of well-integrated
reading, listening, and speaking activities, as well as ideas for research
projects. I used these materials (along with a medical terminology text
and other materials) for a class preparing nurses from Mexico to take the
NCLEX, and I recommend them very highly.
The program is designed
to teach medical English communication in a class setting, where you can
interact with others and a teacher can guide you. However, if that's not
possible, I believe you could still get great value from studying these
materials on your own. You can do all the thinking, listening, reading, and
writing activities by yourself, and could practice speaking and do many of the
projects if you can work with a friend.
exercises are especially useful, giving practice with different accents and common
vocabulary that patients or other health workers might use as well as to think
- Medical English Clear and Simple is an excellent book for practicing
medical vocabulary along with English communication skills. It also
integrates reading, writing, listening, and speaking. It can be used as a
classroom text or for individual study. Try Amazon.com or another online
bookstore. (List price is over $30 USD, but the Amazon Marketplace has
some copies (both new and used) available for much less.)
- Try watching TED talks (and then reading their transcripts) to improve your English reading and listening comprehension and vocabulary. (If you find them difficult, many are also translated into several other languages, so you might watch in your first language for the main idea, and then in English.) Many of their talks are about the practice of medicine, providing lots to think about while working on your English. You might start with this list of some TED popular talks by doctors.
Where to Start
If you need the
meaning of a specific word, or want to know more about a specific medical
procedure, there are several good free medical dictionaries online.
For a general
overview of health care fields and treatments, start with Medical Vocabulary. If you work directly with patients,
review Using Helping Verbs to Give Advice and Practice Giving Advice.
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