Caring in English: ESP for Nurses

Andrew Finch


This paper explores the issue of practitioner-patient communication in the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) context, when the healthcare worker’s first language is not that same as that of the patient. In the English as a Second Language (ESL) setting of countries such as the USA and the UK, this issue concerns international graduate students, physicians, and nurses, who need to acquire the technical language of Medical English for their professional qualifications, along with the psychosocial language of physician-patient relationships. In the EFL setting of countries such as Korea the situation is different, but the need for health staff to be able to communicate with English-speaking patients is increasing, in addition to the need to read professional publications printed in English. This paper suggests therefore that due to factors such as international mobility, globalization, and the spreading of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF), medical colleges and nursing colleges in EFL countries should go beyond the ‘conversation English’ paradigm and offer special Medical English programs for pre-service and in-service healthcare personnel. Furthermore, the curricula of these programs should take a humanistic, patient-centered, task-based approach, promoting and developing sensitive counseling skills in English, in addition to teaching the specific vocabulary and lexis of physician-patient interaction.

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International Journal of English Language Teaching ISSN 2329-7913 (Print) ISSN 2329-7921 (Online)

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